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Old 04-12-2007, 01:31 PM   #1
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CD Reviews: Kings of Leon, Klaxons*

By Andy Smith, Contributing Editor

Kings of Leon kick out the sin and salvation on “Because of the Times”

“She don’t care what her momma says no she’s gonna have my baby” begins the much anticipated follow-up to “Aha Shake Heartbreak” by Lebanon, Tennessee’s Kings of Leon. And a lot of girls would acquiesce—and could have already—if the stories the boys bragged about on the last record were true.

As an opening track, “Knocked Up” just nails it. Not waiting to be nabbed by the naysayers who will inevitably defile this as poetry that could be scrawled in any man’s high school notebook, Caleb Followill foists this chorus on us: “People call us renegades because we like living crazy/ We like taking on the town /I don’t care what nobody says no I’m going to be her lover / Always mad and usually drunk but I love her like no other.”

Frankly, a band that sonically sucked might be run out of many towns for insanely cheesy and arguably stupid stanzas like that. But this noise hails from Nash Vegas—hub of oft sappy and kitschy lyrics that should have been needle-pointed on grandma’s wall instead of over-produced by bad country-pop-stars. Moreover, when these hip-billy Followill boys throw it down, rock’s dorkiest quatrains sound like bible verses etched in honey on the breasts of angelic groupies, proving that the dated impossibility of religiously-infused rock decadence remains possible.

For us in the Volunteer State, it’s a regional thing—where revival tents get set up across the street from barbecue joints and some of the best whiskey in the world is made in what’s known as a “dry county.” Thus the lyrical mood that mixes sex, sin, and salvation travels from the sanctified mountaintops of evangelical living to the desperate valleys of joyful depravity.

Yet Nashville has considered crucifying the Kings—almost Dixie Chicks style—on more than one occasion, for the crime of making it; for partying at their Lebanon digs during the day; for getting it all the time and then writing songs about it. As Nathan Followill says in a recent interview with Uncut, “There’s a lot of bands in Nashville that hate us ‘cause they feel like we didn’t work for it.”

But the Music City needs our Kings even more than they need us, and knowing that, the credits on “Because of the Times” pay dues to “Nashville, Tennessee for inspiring this record.” This disc digs in and does your soul for 13 songs; all the tracks (with the possible exception of the cruel yawping “Charmer”) are confident and crafted to get under the skin and into heavy rotation.

On one of the many amazingly anthemic places on this record, “On Call” calls in the chimes—epic sounds they’ve likely learned from The Edge. “McFearless” refuses fake and flaunts fame at the same time in an authentic fuss with fate, refusing to relinquish the one thing that keeps it real. “Black Thumbnail” bites the same fame they obviously love in the butt, beginning to reckon with the trail of broken hearts in a heartless lyrical rip and rude guitar riff. With “Ragoo,” the boys go coy and funky in a southern kind of way, full of provincial confessions from lying, to being caught with one’s pants down, to owning slaves, to working in a factory, to being land-locked and settling for a stream instead of an ocean. And on it goes. Not a “B-side” among this cataclysmic and orgasmic collection. To balance the badass-ness of the whole shebang, on the sad-sounding and sanctified “The Runner,” the band realizes its inner fallibility and struggle and puts the cards on the communion table to croon in a choir-like way: “I talk to Jesus / Jesus says I’m OK.” Such is the southern theology. God expects us to be worthless, lying, cheating, sexing, drinking scum—and loves us anyway.

The lyrics on “Times” are all about high times, low times, and living the real shit-kicking life—grit from guys likely raised eating grits. But it’s doubtful that these days they’re really rolling it with the roughneck life, unless that’s what we might call the new punishing routine of golf, girls, and gigs. But even the most made-up or manufactured memories can be relived on records, in our hearts and minds, or on the private celluloid of the future. Plus, if it’s a good damn story, do you really care if it’s true? This band brings the bells and balls to the place where the true test is in the grooves they give. And give they do.

No matter how many nights the lusts of the body have been fulfilled, love is still an elusive and torturous theme for these rising suns. Already hot to rock arenas without having to open for Bob Dylan or U2, these sons of the preacher man are possessed by the holy spirit of the rock and roll lifestyle. And actually, their wayward ways aren’t that different than the sins of daddy the preacher man, apparently dressed down for too much drinking. The Kings’ premature mythos and suddenly mature music finally cross paths on this miraculous disc in a Johnny Cash-meets-Charles Bukowski manner, with a mood destined to deal in the elemental woes from the backfield of everyday life.

Sweet and meaty production from Ethan Johns gives this album the chance to be a major rock record. Love’s timeless tests get tested with radio-friendly echoes. But unless it’s a college station at places like Vanderbilt and MTSU, you probably won’t hear much of this born-to-be-a-classic on the radio around here. But we will get them at Bonnaroo—where they can teach all the visiting bands a thing or two about sunburn and summer in the bug-bitten Tennessee steam room that lasts from May to September.

On the addictive refrain from “Fans” they wail:

Make me feel like I’m the one who moves you
The only one you see
Take it down and don’t you let those tears quench the thirsty ground
And don’t you be so scared that you can’t make a sound
Make a sound for me
All of London sing
Because England swings and they sure love the tales I bring
Those rainy days ain’t so bad when you’re the king

“Because of the Times” is a wickedly pure and timeless rock record in what has so far been a remarkable year for popular music. The Kings of Lebanon are The Kings of Lewd are The Kings of Whatever They Want When They Want It—and the band and its growing fan base know it.

For more information, visit: “Because of the Times” was released April 3, 2007 on RCA.

Klaxons Bring “New Rave” into the “Future”

By Kimberly Egolf, Contributing Editor

In the fall of 2005, as the Arctic Monkeys colonized UK and US airwaves, Klaxons met for the first time knowing only that they didn’t want to play post-punk guitar music. Now they’re spearheading the “new rave” sound, being hailed as the next big thing to come out of the UK. It’s a label they invented and a sound based loosely on elements of late ‘90s glow-stick-and-sweat rave music. Klaxons’ debut album “Myths of the Near Future” reintroduces high-energy, gut-shaking beats pounding under euphoric vocal harmonies and fuzzily cascading guitars and keyboards. Post-punk this most certainly is not.

Like a superhero comic strip, Klaxons paint their apocalyptic vision in bright, broad colors. At times the album becomes gloriously outrageous and oversized as layer upon layer of sound spirals into a manic frenzy (listen to “Atlantis to Interzone” and “Magick”). At other moments, the album’s darker tone is reflected in a more relaxed and sober sound (listen to “As Above So Below” and “Two Receivers”). Like the gut-shaking drum beats, the images of a dystopian world contradict the mania of typical rave music.

Borrowing visions from science fiction great J.G. Ballard and dystopian novelist Thomas Pynchon, Klaxons imagine a world – not so very unlike our own – on the verge of catastrophe. Like their music, this world is sober and manic at the same time, both fearing and looking forward to the near future. If only Big Brother turns out to be this damn fun.

With their debut album (following up their successful “Xan Valleys” EP of late 2006), Klaxons are already constructing their future mythic status. Your near future should include theirs.

For more information, visit: “Myths of the Near Future” was released March 27, 2007 on Geffen Records.
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