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Because Of The Times

Second and third records are regularly described as being “difficult” for the group, but the brothers Followill have made a nonsense of such claims. Long live the Kings.

Rating: 7 ½ / 10

Kilian Murphy, 05 Apr 2007

These days, mildly promising rock debuts tend to be wildly overpraised, making it almost inevitable that subsequent records will be tagged as a disappointment. In this climate, Kings Of Leon are the type of band you might have expected to fizzle out after their first record, 2003’s Youth And Young Manhood.

Not so. The group have kept their sound surprisingly fresh incorporating some welcome sonic refinements, without making any great creative leap or departure.

In some quarters, the Kings have been tagged as heads-down purveyors of no-nonsense Southern Rock, but this is misplaced. On Because Of The Times, their third album, there is a real spaciousness and elegance to their sound, with a deliciously crisp, airy production. ‘Molly’s Chambers’-style stompathons are still present (and still enjoyable, in the main) but the Kings Of Leon sound is now often pitched a little closer to the eerie, cavernous, rural vibe of My Morning Jacket.

Opener ‘Knocked Up’ is wonderfully atmospheric, placing a desolate, melancholic riff atop a gently galloping beat. ‘McFearless’ is moody, bleary and sublime – a powerful slice of desert rock, with terrific wailing guitars.

There's a two-track sag in the middle. ‘Black Thumbnail’ and ‘My Party’ are Leon-by-numbers rockers; if the entire album had been devoted to such material, the group would certainly have been accused of creative burn-out.

Things do get back on track, though. ‘True Love Way’ and ‘Ragoo’ are terrific, with excellent stop-start drum shuffles. Here, the Kings’ musicianship begins to sound spontaneous, detailed and alive again.

‘The Runner’ is another stand-out: the group’s palette of instruments is kept deliciously spare on what is a paradoxically rich C&W-ish ballad.

The bombastic ‘Trunk’ is the only other real misstep. Second and third records are regularly described as being “difficult” for the group, but the brothers Followill have made a nonsense of such claims. Long live the Kings.
Rating: 7 ½ / 10

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