KINGS OF LEON – Because Of The Times (RCA)

Rumours abounded about this album – mostly that the band had let the rock and roll lifestyle take its toll on their music, and that they had lost that boyish charm that infused their first two albums. In a way the rumours were true, but strangely, if anything, the booze and drugs have made the band a much harder unit, and this album is undoubtedly their best yet. It starts with the brooding and at times meandering ‘Knocked Up’ – seven minutes of jamming guitars and lyrics about settling down and having kids, but with nary a chorus in sight. ‘Charmer’ is the first track to really show their new-found power, with heavy riffing guitars over a minimal lyric. ‘On Call’ is the latest single, and a fine advertisement for the album, with its heavy guitar sounds and call and response chorus making it a guaranteed singalong at the festivals. ‘Black Thumbnail’ takes the heavy rock sound to its extreme, with Caleb’s vocals straining to be heard over the heavy metal guitars. ‘My Party’ is perhaps the closest we get to the Kings of old, but even that has an added edge that was absent before. ‘Ragoo’ is good old fashioned rock and roll, with its choppy guitar and thumping beat, while ‘Fans’ is another throwback to their early sound – a semi-acoustic country-rock song like they used to do so well. ‘The Runner’ is a welcome respite in the frenetic pace of this album, and a lovely ballad to boot. The disc closes with the slow-building ‘Arizona’, a rock song in the classic sense, with keening guitar-work and an impassioned vocal. Some people might be put off by such a momentous change of style, but for me it really works.