Kings of Leon

Because of the Times (RCA)

Kings of Leon are commanding quite a racket these days. Hailed by some as the saviors of Southern rock, these four — three of them the sons of a Pentecostal preacher — managed to turn their third album, Because of the Times, into an ironic little mixture of hellfire and subversion. And while such a description is intriguing, it's still hard to get a handle on where they're heading with all of it. Some songs allow for moments of repose — via the slow moan of "Trunk" and the weary sprawl of "Arizona" and "True Love Way" — yet others are a tangle of skittish tempos and jittery, acid-fried rumblings. Singer Caleb Followill goads and exhorts his masses, igniting them on the kinetic song "Fans" with cheeky lyrics, then woos audiences on the reggae-fueled "Ragoo." Flush with self-indulgence, sounding manic and unhinged, Followill's rants and wails infuse these tunes with a sound that veers from chaos to cacophony. Propulsive boogies and ragged shuffles may be common to the majority of Dixie's denizens, but Kings of Leon's skewered sendups suggest it's a freak bird, not a free bird, that rules their roost.

 
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