Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Kings of Leon -- Youth & Young Manhood
RCA Records; 2003

The members of the Followill family have all the classic training to put a revival on right. While touring with their evangelist father, the boys of Kings of Leon (brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared, and cousin Matt) developed showman's tricks they could use again when putting on their own revival: that of Southern-born rock and roll. With their Skynyrd and Neil Young albums under their arms and bottles of Jack in their hands, Kings of Leon create Youth & Young Manhood, their first proper album.

Kings of Leon waste no time in conjuring up the vigor of Southern rockers from eras past. "Red Morning Light" throws down gritty guitar lines like drinking challenges and percussion that beckons you to get up and boogie. "Happy Alone" starts with a reserved energy and breaks out during the chorus in raucous celebration of silliness. The song regains its balance just long enough to be pummeled with a few more choruses and horny yelps.

Youth & Young Manhood continues along its drunken path, attempting to pay homage to the bands that gave the Kings of Leon a style to revive. Matthew Followill sets the scene with his Rolling Stones-derived licks, though the influences of his touted Southern rock forefathers Lynrd Skynrd are inexplicably absent. Their bassist Nathan's work is unoriginal, much like that of other bassists who have been relegated to simply creating a thicker sound for the music. However, he still proves redeemable when he saves the song "Joe's Head" with a popping bassline that walks all over Matthew's effect-laden fingerpicking.

Rather off-putting and one of the major downfalls of Youth & Young Manhood is Caleb's lack of interest in his own songs. Often slurring lyrics beyond recognition and stumbling over correct pitch, he gives the impression that his rockstar attitude has gotten in the way of creating something heartfelt. While his three other band-mates/family members play the hell out their parts, Caleb takes a lackadaisical approach that detracts from the overall zest of the album. He proves that he could perform at a higher level on songs like "Red Morning Light" with a sound like a rushed come-on -- sloppy and invigorating. The desperation that Caleb conveys with his coarse and throaty voice on "Holy Roller Novocaine" sends the tune home and gets the feet tapping. These small bursts of glory only serve to drastically highlight how uninspired (and subsequently uninspiring) the vocals really are.

Kings of Leon set out to make Youth & Young Manhood a revival that would bring the flock back to the big tent of Southern rock. Despite their earnest efforts, their bravado couldn't save them from lackluster attempts at vocals. What they ended up with was a bunch of fun summer hymns that make it clear that although they know what to revive; they're not quite ready to make the South rise again.

[Thanks to Joseph Wilk for his brilliance in editing.]

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