CD Review – The Kings of Leon “Youth and Young Manhood”

The Kings of Leon
Youth and Young Manhood

Back in good ol’ 2001 The Strokes rattled and The White Stripes moaned into speakers of music aficionados across the nation. And situated in the heart of the Bible Belt South was a Pentacostal preacher’s shed, his three young sons lying around inside. On the radio in this hash pipe-riddled shack, this retro-rock radio play list interrupted “Free Bird” and with it, the boys’ musical road map. Those young boys, the Followill brothers, would become known to the music world as Kings of Leon.

Maybe that’s not the exact reason the Kings of Leon have all the style of the old musical South — they’re Lynyrd Skynyrd chic to the tee — but sound like The Strokes on Southern rock karaoke night. But it can’t be any weirder than the Followill’s real story.

The boys, including their lead-guitarist cousin Matthew, were homeless as youngsters.

Their parents (Dad was a roving preacher; Mom was a church musician) hauled them all over the South in His name. For random periods of time, he family stayed with relatives and clergy-types.

Then, after the Followills were all old enough, they moved out on Mom, Dad and, for all intensive purposes, God.

Oh, and they made a record.

Youth and Young Manhood is an 11-song storybook, including what it sounds like when trials join tribulations, when raw energies join youthful insubordination and when The White Stripes join The Allman Brothers Band.

The album opens with the semi-fast and furious Southern rock derbies “Red Morning Light” and “Happy Alone,” where we are introduced to lead singer Caleb Followill’s patented southern-drawl-with-speech-impediment warbling. Let’s just say that if you were wondering what Jack White would sound like if he was a “slow” boy from Alabama, here’s your answer. These two songs also make it very clear that Matthew Followill is a damn good guitarist, who rocks too hard for the rest of the band’s southern rockless sound.

Then the band enters the Allman Bros. for juniors portion of the album. “Joe’s Head” and “California Waiting” are two of the best songs of the year, not to mention on this record, but they are not enough to save an album whose tunes turn into a squall of Caleb’s now annoying whiny screeching along with the Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts in his mind.

“California Waiting” is so good that it deserves its own paragraph, so here it goes. A lone cowbell gives way to a nice Strokes-y guitar intro. Caleb, in one of his last bearable lyrical performances, bursts in with “Little Mona Lisa laying by my side/ ‘Crimson and Clover’ pulling over time.” This gives way to a jangling guitar, freefalling chorus of “Hey/ California waiting/ Every little thing’s gotta be just right/ Say/ Why you trying to save me/ Can’t I get back to my lonely life.”

Simply put, if KOL can be this good over the course of at least an EP, they could be just as great as every music critic says they are. But for now, the Followill boys might want to chart a course for a deserted island, away from any recorded music, and think something up on their own.

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