Thursday, October 31, 2013

One of the Best Kings of Leon Songs Ever Written



I remember listening to Kings of Leon – a bunch of rowdy Southern-rock cowboys and Pentecostal church breakaways – when I was barely a teenager. The drunken, rebellious and soulful rock anthems found on earlier albums like Youth and Young Manhood were unlike anything I had heard before; unlike anything I had heard in the millennium, at least. Caleb Followill’s voice was quickly secured as the embodiment of contemporary rock talent for me, and since, despite their downfalls, I’ve measured all contenders against that raspy howl. Over the years, however, with age and commercial influence, the band slowly chopped their biker manes and experimented with more melodic, mainstream-friendly rock that was accessible to both new and old converts – at times losing their way in the chaos of their personal rehabilitation, marriages, kids and rapid fire albums and tours. 

When I first listened to 2010’s Come Around Sundown, decked with a few entirely likable Kings tracks, I felt a little slanted by the once fearless Tennessee brood and their seemingly safe dip into radio-rock. But, every great band has one of these worrisome albums, and every devoted follower has to suck it up and wait for a revival. Especially with Kings; I felt it was such a cop-out to become surly and declare their decline. Sticking around out of loyalty and curiosity was a wise decision, because it’s my personal belief that Mechanical Bull brought the boys back to life – via a hybrid of evocative Kings tracks (“Supersoaker” and “Rock City”) and the friendlier Only By The Night flavour (“Wait for Me” and “Temple”).

Siding more so with the latter, “Beautiful War” has quickly restored my faith in the band’s songwriting capabilities – and has already become one of my favourite songs of 2013. Written the same night as “Use Somebody,” on the same sheet of paper, the song was recorded in a drunken mess and dropped back in 2008 – before, in one of their wiser moments, they thoughtfully re-recorded the piece for release on Mechanical Bull. Something about this song – the heartsick, lyrically gorgeous U2 or Springsteen kind of rock balladry – I’ve found to be just a little bit life-changing. As if I wasn’t already convinced, I knew the Kings were back the first time I heard the song march forward, gospel choir and Caleb’s aching croon swaying side by side ("I said love don't mean nothing/ unless there's something worth fighting for"), and that anthemic chorus crash in. Just an instant classic – and proof they haven’t lost a thing.

If you haven't picked up Mechanical Bull yet, do it immediately.



 

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