All in the family: ‘Kings’ reign relaxed rock

Michael Lucarz

The idea of brotherly love, particularly within the realm of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll, is often an elusive and even foreign concept. The era in which the Everly Brothers and Beach Boys once shared the spotlight is a seemingly archaic one, long gone amidst the infamous, intra-band conflict personified by the Black Crowes’ Robinson kin and Oasis’ own brothers Gallagher. But on “Youth and Young Manhood,” Tennessee-bred Kings of Leon put southern sibling harmony on full display.

The band’s debut record has been met with critical acclaim since its release last month, garnering attention with its raw Creedence meets the Stones meets Strokes brand of stripped down rock ‘n’ roll. Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill, joined by cousin Matthew on guitar, seem to reflect the bohemian lifestyle that they knew while traversing the deep South with their father, a Pentecostal preacher-man who introduced his boys to the sounds of the South.

The Rock and R&B roots of “Youth and Young Manhood” are most evident on “Joe’s Head,” with its mid ’60s Brit-Pop, Stones-like melodies and Allman Brothers textures thrown in for good measure. “California Waiting” conjures up memories of early Heartbreakers-era Tom Petty while “Molly’s Chambers” grooves hard with its lethargic, power-chord driven hooks. The honky-tonk swagger of “Genius” doesn’t fall short of its title, with Caleb’s Dylan-esque cynicism cleverly woven into the tune’s lyrics “You keep stickin’ to me like a prickly porcupine / But you’re gettin’ your information from the grocery checkout line.” And the soft Rod Stewart boogie showcased on the LP’s hidden track sings about the transient restlessness fostered by adolescence.

This isn’t mere retro rock, as Kings of Leon seem to know their own history far too well to become rock n’ roll casualties like some of their own predecessors. The group transcends the “garage-rock” label so ignorantly attached to new bands today, a genre Kings of Leon are far too royal to even know. “Youth and Young Manhood” merges essential rock tones with archetypal themes of life and love, while displaying the undeniable potential of a modern band with modern appeal.