By Andy Whitman
You can say this for these sons of a preacher man: their rock 'n' roll sermons are getting more
interesting and varied. On Because of the Times, the brothers Followill augment their familiar Skynyrd licks with some old-school
soul, sweet gospel harmonies and atmospheric ballads that would do Daniel Lanois proud. It's enough to make you think they're growing up.
But make no mistake: This is a rock 'n' roll record, and "Charmer," "Black Thumbnail" and "My Party" strut as mightily as any of the songs
on their first two albums, equal parts White Stripes garage blues and ZZ Top boogie. More impressively, the brothers seem to be moving
beyond their party roots. The lyrics, still tending toward celebrations of hard liquor and soft breasts, show increasing signs of maturity and occasional flashes of poetry. While no one will mistake these songs for autumnal reveries, lead single "On Call" seems to seriously propose sentiments that are decidedly foreign to youth and
young manhood—fidelity and long-term commitment. It all adds up to an artistic leap forward. Or as Caleb Followill sings in "The Runner": "I talk to Jesus, and Jesus says I'm okay." I don't have the divine pedigree, but I say the same. God save the Kings.
By Rick Flintlock
Give the Kings of Leon grudging credit for staying together this long. Starting out as shaggy ragamuffin Southern trend-hoppers without any
real songwriting skills, they've managed to weather the trucker-cap days long enough to reach their next identity crisis. Unlike contemporaries The Strokes who evened things out by making a
legitimate third album, here the Kings of Leon continue to sound like a ship without a rudder. It's always a head fake with these guys—a
seven-minute opener without the epic guitar break for which it seems destined, a few strange stabs at echoey anthemic guitar chimes scattered across a few loosely connected songs, and then the
herky-jerky hucklebuck of "Black Thumbnail," on which Caleb Followill's mangled Fogerty histrionics add more noise than light. And
the songwriting remains dubious as ever. Dig this lyrical couplet from "Charmer": "She stole my karma, oh no, sold it to the farmer, oh no." Pure poetry, boys. As always, there are some guitar moments on Because of the Times that will give detractors pause, but in the end it's all so muddled and haphazard that you wonder if this band will ever discover the point of its continued existence, if there ever was one.