Kings Of Leon: Youth & Young Manhood

Kings Of Leon: Youth & Young Manhood

-

Kings Of Leon

Album: Youth & Young Manhood
Label: RCA

How does the world sound to someone growing up in the back of a car, driven from one Bible Belt church to another by a traveling Pentecostal preacher father? For Caleb, Nathan, and Jared Followill, the three brothers at the center of Kings Of Leon (first cousin Matthew Followill fills out the lineup on guitar), it sounds like a thrillingly rattled reinterpretation of previous attempts to find transcendence through the boozy fuzz of guitar rock. They lean on forebears from the Stones to the Strokes; it's as if the peripatetic upbringing that delayed their exposure to the full range of secular music made them seek out only the best, and in that mad rush, they found a voice all their own. All the elements click into place with "Red Morning Light," which kicks off the group's full-length debut, Youth & Young Manhood, by packing an album's worth of indelible riffs, rhythmic drive, and restrained yowling into a song that barely clocks in at three minutes. But the drama it introduces takes longer to play out. "You couldn't take it on the tightrope, no, you had to take it on the side," sings Caleb, sounding like a good boy who just learned how to sin and needs to sing about it. His meaning is clear, even though the words make little sense. Drenched in sweat and even less savory fluids, "Molly's Chambers" immortalizes a femme fatale in a garage-rock singalong, while "Spiral Staircase" suggests what the Stooges might have sounded like if Iggy Pop and company had spent the turning of the '70s fending off swamp mosquitoes. It's not all bluster and spark, however. The slow, expansive "Trani" applies a Lou Reed-like jaundiced affection to the habitués of low-rent nightlife, and the album closes with a lovely, hidden acoustic track about hometowns and the need to leave them. "Everybody says this place is beautiful, and you'd be so crazy to say goodbye," Caleb sings, before making it clear that he'll be packing up soon. Time and young manhood wait for no one, and this remarkable debut captures the sound of growing up and busting out without sparing the rough edges.