Gen-X’s success in carrying on the previous generation’s genre-defining brand of “southern rock” doesn’t come from trying to copy that style, but loosening it up and mixing in more elaborate melodies. Bands from The Black Crowes to My Morning Jacket and many in-between are able to combine soaring blues-rock with darker rhythms, buoyant guitars, and more sensual vocal harmonies. Among these groups are Kings of Leon, whose third album, Because of the Times is a rushing gem that keeps the southern rock current flowing at a nice speed.
The band of Followills (all of their last names) kick Because of the Times off with a bold move. “Knocked Up” is a creeping seven-minute ode to hitting and running that opens the rest of the album up to the three- and four-minute tunes that follow. By doing this, each of the tracks, 2 through 13, are relatively easier to swallow. The rest of the album takes on a poignant and grinding vibe thanks to the desparation in Caleb’s vocals and the wailing distortion and quick-stepping rhythms behind him.
For such another ambitious album, Because of the Times rises to the occasion and provides welcome relief at the same time. On the stronger edge, the guitars on “McFearless” grungy wash while Nathan’s drumming splatters like paint. “My Party” is a spastic new-hoedown jam. On the other hand, “Ragoo” is a smooth Police-esque beat, “The Runner” is a more slippery number, and “Fans” is a tapping, falsetto-laced trek. The album nicely covers all of the basic concepts a complete rock album should.
Kings of Leon keep the new generation’s concept of southern rock going strongly with Because of the Times. It’s open-minded, powerful, fun, and already one of the year’s best rock albums. If rock is a jungle, these guys are lions, with the increasing potential to be leaders of the pack.