Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Returnings of Leon

So it's been a little too long.  Maybe a month and a half.  I should have given you a recap of New York.  I mean, I'd planned on it.  But now, I think both you and I feel it's a little fleeting.  So, I'm not going to do it.  Ok.  One word: freaking the best.  So I cheated a little a bit.  

Instead of me rambling about some topic, which I hope to do with some regularity even though I am a busy, busy dude, I offer you a review to one of my favorite band's new album.  Kings of Leon are back with Only By The Night but you know this cause I've only been talking about it all summer and it's finally out on Tuesday.  

So without further ado, here it is.


Let me begin by making this distinction: "mainstream" is not a genre, but merely the location of where the music is being typically heard.  I'll use this example: you all know that I've listened to crappy music, and I still do, nothing wrong with that.  I used to really like Trust Company.  Go ahead, laugh.  I had never heard them on the radio around me at all but apparently they tore the radio up in other parts of the country.  Trust Company was only "mainstream" in certain locations but one would use the word to describe their music as such.  See how "mainstream" refers to the location not a genre?  Take Muse for the counter: their music is hideously "mainstream" over in the U.K.  Muse's music is hardly what one would label "mainstream" with the expert instrumentation and classical influence.  "Mainstream" is a location, not a genre.  Repeat it with me kids: a location.
You might be asking yourself: what in the world does all this have to do with the new Kings of Leon record?  Well, I'll tell you.  Too many people are decrying the band as mainstream now, thus these idiots who judge music on social standards are forgoing what I believe to be a fantastic record.  KOL is still a band about big hooks and intense lyrics, but now the outward southern exterior has faded.  This does not make them mainstream, if they blow up because of these incredibly catchy songs, then I guess they will be.  Here's the bigger question though: who the heck cares?  Don't we want more thoughful music such as this instead of souless, mid-twentysomethings singing about lesbian kissing?  If your answer is anything but, "Absolutely we do!" then stop listening to music and go read books because Lord knows you could use the smarts.  The point of this sermon/review is like what you like, ok?  Don't worry about who else does.  Judge a band on the songs, not about where the songs are being heard.
With all that ridiculousness out of the way, let's talk about Only By The Night, the Kings' fourth effort.  There's no doubt that last year's Because of the Times marked a new direction for those hairy, hairy boys' youth and manhood of the young variety years ago.  Too bad people are afraid of change and whined about the lack of southerniness on BotT.  These are the same yuppies who love change when it comes from a specific full-of-hot-air Democratic nominee.  The brothers Followill and cousin Matthew said it themselves: making the same record over and over again would get very boring.  I'm pretty sure the southern thing was still there, what, with songs about Camaros and the great state of Arizona.  Think of some of your favortie bands.  What if U2 had stuck with the good thing they had going with Boy almost thirty years ago?  No Joshua Tree for you.  And Radiohead?  There's not a single Radiohead fan who's favorite album is PabloHoney, at least not any Radiohead fan I've met.  Sure, there are some duds, Pop and Amnesiac,I'm looking at you (I'm gonna get some hatemail on that latter one).  But the point is, bands evolve their sound and make the music they want to make.  And so that is exactly what Kings have done.
It's true, the southern flair is more subtle but it is not gone.  Maybe the music has lost that intitial comfort but the lyrics are still in that mindset.  Singing about girls that are seventeen?  That's trailer park, just ask Winger.  I don't know about you but the word and song title "Revelry" screams "confederacy" to me which in turn screams "south."  Don't worry, it's still here.  What isnew and keeping with the flow established on BotT are the giant, expansive soundscapes.  Remember that first time you spun "Knocked Up" off BotT and were bombarded  Then that chorus came and punched you in the gut telling you, "Uh-huh, it is gonna be that way."  My favortie track off OBtN, "Be Somebody", has that same feel but reverersed: the verse is the violent one while the chorus let's you jump off a cliff.  When the chorus opens up and the guitar is washed in reverb and the kick is firing on all fours with not a snare in sight...well...there's few other songs that have gripped me like that in a long while.
The album opens up with "Closer", a dark sequel to BotT's ender, "Arizona."  That latter track was akin to driving towards mountains, feeling optimistic about what's on the other side.  Imagine then that you round that pass and there's dark clouds on the horizon and a sense of uneasiness.  That's how I feel when listening to "Closer."  I liken it to The Return of the King (book, not movie) when the hobbits return home all relieved only to find the shire scourged.  They just destroyed the freaking ring and now they have to fight for their homeland?  C'mon!  Fortunately, Kings don't want to fight.  They just want you to come along.  This lead's into "Crawl" which seems to be a little political.  That thumping bassline kills me everytime.  Time out to say Jared Followill is one incredible bassist.  They're all good at what they do: Caleb writes well, Nathan pounds tastefully and intricately, and Matt never once indulges in guitar wankery.  But to me, Jared really elevates a song.  Alright, time in.  Third is "Sex On Fire" which I have nothing to say about except what a driving pop song.  The closer "Cold Desert" will be one of the biggest songs you'll ever hear.  Just listen and try not to be swept away, especially by that gimmicky fade out/fade in trick near the end. 
Granted, not everyone is going to feel the same way about this album.  Not every track is a surefire winner.  Actually, only "I Want You" comes to mind, with it's never-really-going anywhere, laidback vibe.  But for all you southerners, that song sounds great to throw on while sipping some lemonade on the porch.  It's all going to come down to what you like to listen to, as all music does.  One thing I'm disappointed by is that when I was listening to the album this summer at my internship, there was another song called "New Frontier" that was included.  From what I've read, this track is now called "Frontier City" and available with the deluxe version.  Track it down cause it's a nice little gem with some fun group falsetto. 
In conclusion, love the music you love.  But you need to love Only By The Night.  If you don't, I'll grab a chorus and punch you in the gut.


Erin said...

"like what you like"...AMEN.. remember this next time we talk :) haha im excited to see you in a few weeks!!

Anonymous said...

Check out above link for OK advice from owner of the "Chop Shop"