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Kings of Leon enter the spotlight with latest release

Rebecca Saunders | Thursday, October 16, 2003

Some bands spend years trying to get reviewed by top music magazines like “Rolling Stone” and “Spin,” but for the band called Kings of Leon, this is not an issue. Not only is this up-and-coming garage-rock band being reviewed by these magazines, it is also featured as No. 2 in a list of the top 10 rising bands and its album was given four stars by “Rolling Stone.” Spin magazine proclaims, “Kings of Leon bash and pop like they’ve been rock stars for years.” Sons and nephew of a southern Pentecostal minister, can the Kings of Leon possibly be deserving of all this press? The answer lies in one place, their second album Youth and Young Manhood, and it is an easy answer to find.

Youth and Young Manhood was released on Aug. 19 in America and was released prior to that in England. In England, the Kings of Leon rocked the charts and debuted at No. 5, and made it up to No. 3 by the third week out. The four-piece band (three brothers and their cousin) all with the last name Followill, range in age from 16 to 22 are now touring the U.S. with not quite as an enthusiastic reaction as they found in England. However, they are by no means being overlooked either.

The Kings of Leon definitely have a sound extremely unique to current rock and roll. The closest current comparison would be the Strokes with a little less melody and a bit heavier rock. Growing up on the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and Bad Company, the group has a distinct sound that mixes rock, punk, jazz, and southern bluegrass beats. The almost scratchy vocals of Caleb Followill often sounds as if he is mumbling through songs, but it is emphasized just enough, with changes in tone and intensity, to make the mumbling seem a conscious and artistic decision. Although at times the listener can hardly make out the lines, it works with the music.

The first single from Youth and Young Manhood is an upbeat garage rock with a southern twist called “Molly’s Chambers.” Essentially, it’s a song about “Just another girl who wants to rule the world / at anytime.” A girl that is easy for everyone to fall for, but not whose affections are easy to obtain in return. “You’ll plead you’ll get down on your knees,” and then “You want it, she’s got it / Molly’s Chambers gonna change your mind.” The song is very catchy and memorable, but a bit hard to understand at times. The music is great, as is the abrupt end of the song which leaves the listener hanging, perhaps as Molly herself seems to leave the victims of her love.

Two other great songs on the album are the upbeat and southern rock-based “Red Morning Light” and “California Waiting.” Another high point is “Holy Roller Novocaine,” the name of their first album as well as their last song. “Holy Roller Novocaine” begins with a bass jazz beat and then jams into a punchy rock chorus. The song tells the story of passion in a relationship crooning in the chorus, “Don’t worry baby, you won’t feel a thing / close your eyes … Holy Roller Novocaine.”

That is, perhaps, the best advice one can have when approaching the Kings of Leon’s Youth and Young Manhood, don’t worry and close your eyes. These are not necessarily songs one sings along with, but the sound is not easily forgotten. Time will tell if Kings of Leon are deserving of their critical acclaim, but the band that is currently “kicking off a golden ear of southern garage rock” certainly deserves all of the attention they are receiving.

Contact Rebecca Saunders at rsaunder@nd.edu