I ran across a favorite song of mine recently after having not listened in some time, and was moved to write:
The Kings of Leon are, without a doubt, one of the few recent bands to not only become popular, but also to be of any worth. Those that would say differently are most likely the self-described “taste-maker” jerk-wads who should not only be avoided at all costs in every social situation, but who should also be beaten mercilessly about the shins and ankles whenever accidentally encountered in a street or alleyway. Coolhunting.com, you know who you are. (More below…)
And while the last two KOL albums have been, in my opinion, standout offerings in a sea of depressingly retarded teen nonsense and laughingly emasculated emo, the first and arguably the best Kings of Leon offering—Youth and Young Manhood—has been somewhat forgotten alongside its more commercially viable brothers (Aha Shake Heartbreak, Because of the Times). Its sound is unwaveringly brave. The four young men who made it were too young to either know or care that the sound they were producing was about as far from the accepted current “popular” rock hum as you can get. Southern, raw, and produced with absolute immediacy by Ethan Johns, the sound practically explodes off the disc from the first monster riff, and from there traverses effortlessly from exuberant, to lonely, youthful vanity, mischievousness, downright malice, and back to lonely again without once letting their attention stray from a unrefined sonic through-line that is completely unique to this album.
One track in particular, Trani, stands out even above the rest. With a maturity usually attributed to a band much older, this song captures fully the confinement and grinding forlornness brought about by living life in an environment unsuited to one’s character. It is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s golden era (Brining It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde), and as a matter of coincidence, the song has received praise from Dylan himself. Lyrically the song is at once bizarre and impeccable (All the bubbas got their heads in a nod, they don’t know what they love or deserve to get; chances are they tab their worm in a slab, doesn’t even know which fish that he like to bite tonight, ah tonight, tonight, ah maybe tonight”); musically it is hauntingly indelible. Starting with a slow burn, regretful and astray, it builds to a heated and rebellious bridge and smashes through to the end with true freaking rock aplomb.
I’ve included some video from a 2004 live performance at some fucking hippy-infested festival called Bonnaroo in
KOL is very big overseas, and getting bigger all the time here in the states (where, as we all know, it really matters).