The Kings Of Leon I Used to Love

So My Old Kentucky Blog posted this today. It is definitely something weird for an ‘on-the-rocks’ Kings of Leon fan to see. A dance version of one of their songs?? And of “Knocked Up” at that??? What is this world coming to? I really don’t even know how to feel about it. It’s strange that’s for sure.

What’s weirder, but kind of cool, is this:

Speaking of the good ol’ boys, I tried to save a friend from becoming a fan for the wrong reasons today. He was boasting in his status that he was now a KOL fan thanks to Only By The Night. Of course, I was pissed and told him he needed to go back and do some research before claiming he was a fan based on that album.

Now I don’t want to sound like a snob or anything, I never liked those people who just shut down anyone who liked a band that they “liked first”, but this isn’t about that at all. I, for example, didn’t become a huge KOL fan until I purchased Aha Shake Heartbreak after falling for the “Four Kicks” video.

I had heard songs by the band before and really liked them, I just didn’t know it was them at the time. And either way, in my opinion, ASH is the bands best album to date.

But being a big Kings of Leon fan, I know that the bands earlier stuff is the best. It’s the most raw version of them at their best, their sound was so unique, so rock n’ roll with that Southern kick that just sucked you in. Anyone who has not heard the tunes off of the Holy Roller Novocaine EP are seriously in denial about how good this band actually is. Take my #3 favorite Kings of Leon song for example, “California Waiting”. Those who heard it on Youth and Young Manhood got a good taste of its power, but the true version on the original EP is classic. It’s slower, uses a much simpler arrangement, and Caleb’s vocals are spot on in the perfect Kings of Leon sort of way.

Songs like “Red Morning Light” and “Molly’s Chambers” just have this rolling flavor that is the genius and core of the band’s sound.

Moving on to Aha Shake Heartbreak (again), it’s just another album that you can just sit through on repeat. The big hits like “The Bucket”, “King of the Rodeo (my #1)”, and “Four Kicks (my #2)” are boss, but it’s the other tracks that make the whole package worthwhile.

“Razz” for instance gets me every time. I love the main guitar riff and the rhythm of the track. And the opening track, “Slow Night, So Long”, it’s just classic. The drums really bring the whole song together and the lyrics are great. It’s such a simple song in its message, the final package makes this song perfect driving music, and the tag at the end of the track leading into “King of the Rodeo” is such a good mood setter for the next track. It’s like they transitioned into a lounge act before letting the next song rip, and I really love the way they played with the melody at the beginning of the “King of the Rodeo” video.

Then you’ve got tracks like “Milk” and “Day Old Blues”, and “Rememo” where less is more. They don’t have the big instrumentation of the other tracks, they are more of ballads, but really show of the bands skill for creativity in the crafting of their lyrics. The stories just come out so clear (that is if you take the time to make out what the vocals are actually saying).

But I don’t need to give you a play-by-play of this album to tell you how much I love it. I think Aha Shake Heartbreak is the essential KOL album and all those before it are also great. The turning point for me was with Because of the Times.

Now this is an album that made me worry. I am still proud to say I own it, it contains my #4 KOL song, “McFearless” but it is the first album of theirs that I just can’t listen to all the way through, and that means a lot to me being that they are one of my favorite bands. The first half of the album is alright; “Knocked Up” is an incredibly long, but still appropriate intro to the album. “Charmer” just sets me on fire with laughter due to an inside joke with a friend about Caleb’s howl before each verse, but it’s a great driving song with tons of energy and a powerful sound. While “On Call” was the first single from the album it’s not my favorite, but it’s a tolerable song. “McFearless” really got me into the album though, it’s just such a massive song, so much energy, so much attitude. It just radiates the KOL style in a much bigger sound than any of the songs on their previous albums do.

Then you’ve got the arena rockin’ “Black Thumbnail”, which is about where the album gets tricky. “My Party” is a decent track due to the chorus section, but truly I just felt like everything between tracks 6 and 13 were just a mess. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the same band that played the live, messy version of “Happy Alone” on the CD sampler I got from Target, which was the first KOL song I actually owned. Tracks like “Ragoo” and especially “Camaro” just lost me. Really?? An ode to a car?? And with lines like “I’m lookin’ cool in my new camaro”, it just sounded like a bad Chevy commercial just waiting to happen. And I absolutely hated “Fans”, it was like driving through your old middle-of-nowhere hometown that you never actually wanted to go back to and remembering how much it sucked then, and still sucks now.

The only thing that pushed me to finish the CD was the ending ballad “Arizona”, which I think may be one of their finest ballads to date. It’s got a great moving rhythm and I love the bassline. However with the major production heavy tracks on this album I really wasn’t entirely surprised to see what came next.

Outside of “Sex On Fire” (and even that’s pushing it) I refuse to take on Only By The Night. The album just really disappoints me. It’s just so….so… How about we focus on what it’s NOT. It’s just not the Kings of Leon style and flavor that I prefer, or that I feel is what made the band great. The only credit I can give to “Sex On Fire” is that musically it follows the general aesthetics of a KOL song, it sounds like them. However, lyrically the song is severely lacking. I used to buy KOL albums to grab the liner notes and figure out what the hell they were talking about, and usually the songs suddenly made more sense, and I appreciated them even more for their creativity and delivery. Now I don’t even have to question their message. “Oh, your sex is on fire” Seriously? Where’s the intrigue? Where’s the story? I don’t even know how to deal with the new single “Use Somebody”.

I downloaded the first available track “Crawl” when the band put it out on their site and just had really know idea what to do with it. I don’t think it’s wrong for bands to expand their boundaries, it’s something that has to occur for them to move forward creatively as artists, but this new direction KOL is taking, the sound, the look, it’s just too much for me to handle right now.

What happened to the simple songs, the clear and to-the-point messages? I just feel like they’ve taken a huge step inside the box that their music was happily outside of for so many years. That being said I have not heard every track on the new album, after the five I did take the time to listen to I was just done. I couldn’t stand anymore. I really hope the band takes some time to really think about their next album, because I know I can’t handle another one like this.

I guess the main point of this rant is, I do still LOVE Kings of Leon. I think they are a great and talented band, with a unique sound and flavor that sets them apart from the rest. But my admiration for them as a band has declined deeply with Only By the Night. I think it’s a bad album, that doesn’t showcase that’s band’s full potential, or their true talent. It’s just a pathetic attempt to attract a larger audience, a peak at pop stardom, and a waste of time. But as for people taking them on after that, their fourth studio album, I just wish people would get to know the band’s earlier work before deciding based on the new album that they want to dedicate their fanship to the band (or call them their favorite). They are missing out on years worth of raw, developing talent that really make a band great.

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