Kings of Leon: Southern Royalty

They are the reason guitars were invented. They can create a generation gap by simply stretching out their vocal chords. They are raw engines of rebellion and are always at a better party than you: Rock stars. As of late though, the institution of Rock Stardom has been struggling for a front man. No problem though, because rock’s kingdom has four new crowns in the shape of Tennessee natives Kings of Leon. Brothers Caleb, Jared, and Nathan Followill, along with lead guitarist and cousin Matthew Followill, are catapulting themselves north to Burlington for a lesson in releasing unrefined energy. The Kings of Leon did not exactly burst onto the map though. Actually, they crept up on the rock scene in 2003 with the release of their debut album, Youth and Young Manhood, which enjoyed mild success in the US but has almost sold double platinum in the U.K. But it is their latest album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, which is the catalyst behind their current tour. The Kings’ sophomore attempt manifests the band’s personal experiences, splattering canvas with a colorful concoction of quick-biting guitar riffs, up-tempo percussion, punchy bassline, and stories of city girls, tragedy, and drunken debauchery. Their brutally honest and abstract lyrics are propelled by their metamorphosis from pastoral country youths into international celebrities. But while their newfound fame may have required a little adaptation, the family quartet is no doubt up for it. “On our first album,” comments drummer Nathan Followill in a press release, “I’d say about 30 percent of what we were writing about was autobiographical and 70 percent was wishful thinking. We were writing about things we hadn’t seen yet. On this album, 90 percent of what we’re writing about are things we’ve experienced, nights we’ve had. There’s still that other ten percent though…” The authenticity of their lyrics is indicative of the Kings’ party habits. They sing about whiskey highs, velvet snow, and pistols on fire. In “Taper Jean Girl” the band kicks up a fuss about a seductress with “a motel face” who seems to have caught the family foursome off guard. The sandpaper voice of lead singer Caleb channels the band’s emotions to the audience while roughing the edges of mainstream rock. While a few of the Kings’ songs may flirt with pop, for the most part they will stupefy you with their nakedly fresh punch-drunk approach. Not to worry though. These southern boys are served with a side of sweet potatoes. Aha Shake Heartbreak is punctuated with a few ballads in which the band turns down their libido to croon the critics. “There were things on this record that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to do before because I was afraid everybody else would think I was soft,” says Caleb. “Anything from yodeling to singing pretty when I wanted to sing pretty…I still bring it when I got to bring it.” Finally, Rock & Roll is experiencing a revival of the attitude intrinsic to its dawning. A band like this has not come around in a while. The Kings of Leon take everything about Rock and strip it down to its bare essence. By no means is their music heavy-just loud, melodic, and jumpy. If you can’t move to these guys, check for vital signs. Kings of Leon comes to Higher Ground in South Burlington on Tuesday, October 4th, with opening band The Like. Doors open at 7.