Apparently Vancouver Loves Kings of Leon
by Bob Pember
Over the last year about a half dozen of my friends have thought that I would love Kings of Leon. I’ve definitely heard them in the background before but I’ve never found myself compelled to give them a personal listen. After learning that they added a second show at GM place in August as the original date was selling out, I thought I’d listen to what thousands of people in Vancouver were filing in to see.
I listened to their 2007 release Because of the Times and their most recent Only by the Night released in September 2008. The music on the albums is competent but nothing earth-tilting—they can all play their instruments well and proper but they don’t take the guitar, bass, and drums anywhere exceeding FM predictability. The vocals are impressive on the right songs, but singer Caleb Followill falters when he tries to get creative outside his peak range. However, the Followill brothers Nathan, Caleb and Jared, along with their cousin Matthew, definitely have an ear for melody and song structure that can guarantee years of writing widely acceptable music for reasonably devoted fans—GM Place headlining music.
The fuzz-driven ‘Crawl’ is catchy, straightforward rock and roll at first listen, however the repetition of the chorus and the well-emphasized guitar parts force the lyrics of the verses to the forefront. These lyrics in turn spiked my interest in the subject matter these guys choose to sing about. This rock number packaged with heavy distortion and groove inciting drum beats has lyrics that seem derived from the book of revelations. The song seems to be in a violent setting wherein the singer has had their mouth broken and is currently suffering from “the bloody bits spitting out.” Followill continues to lament on the “crucified USA” and that “as every prophecy unfolds / hell is surely on its way.” A little apocalyptic I thought for such accessible music.
Following some internet investigation I found out that the three Followill brothers (Nathan, Caleb and Jared) spent a significant portion of their childhood with their father Ivan, a United Pentecostal preacher, who found time to home-school the boys while spreading the message of southern Protestantism around Tennessee (also how Caleb got that lovely singing voice of his: the boys were all in the same gospel choir). The Pentecostal upbringing seems to explain the fire and brimstone felt from the deceivingly benign rock style of ‘Crawl’—following a preacher could easily instill a fiery and grunge-influenced appreciation for doomsday wrath. Still, their weighty lyrics don’t seem to be scaring off anyone.
The way their music is constructed is accessible enough that they don’t scare off many listeners with complex riffs or baselines, and the vocals appeal to a tried-and-true alternative sound. Though their work doesn’t rattle any of the scaffolding around rock and roll, it’s not hard to imagine why thousands of people in our city like them enough to pay the $55 ticket price and fill up GM Place.
Kings of Leon are playing a sold-out show at GM Place on August 15th. Tickets are still available for a second show on August 16th.