When your band is often compared to the Strokes, you are either trying to be compared to the Strokes or you are the Kings of Leon, who pay no mind and just work it out. They are that good. Though the Kings pretty much corner the market on "next wave" mullet style, their Southern charm somehow makes the Kentucky Waterfall a very hip thing to sport in the name of rock. Not to mention that Youth and Young Manhood, their first full length, is a polished effort and a damn good rock record.
Take for example, "Red Morning Light," the red-hot opening track that initiates a 46-minute lift-off towards hard rock heaven. It’s hard to determine what exactly Caleb Followill is saying, but he’s so damn serious I know he means it. Behind the fierce bass and guitar work of brother Jared and cousin Matthew (lead guitar), there is conviction in his sputtering, inarticulate drawl and that ’70s feeling — something like Foghat meets speed metal. "Joe’s Head" has an Allman Brothers groove to it, with a jingly, road happy riff and a tight beat (thanks to drums by Nathan, another Followill brother), and "Spiral Staircase" does the punk thing like a rebel preacher’s kid let loose in new beat London. Did I forget to mention the father of Nathan, Jared and Caleb was a traveling United Pentecostal evangelist? Are you beginning to hear what I hear?
The mold that cast the Strokes and the Kings is similar: both bands are young and retro, they credit a mumbling, incoherent lead vocalist and project an insane guitar driven agenda. But when the Strokes went to get their vintage iron-ons ironed on, the Kings of Leon were dropped into a vat of boiling lard. Youth and Young Manhood is so deep-fried it should come with a roll of paper towels and a cholesterol warning. From the humid swamp blues "Dusty," where "I can’t find no place or nothing / Where thrills are cheap and love is divine," to the hypno-bass action on "Molly’s Chambers," Youth and Young Manhood is electrified with Southern style and down-home soul.
Though the raw, unpolished quality you often expect from a debut has been edited out to oblivion, the Kings of Leon might actually be put together enough to side-step the "Here we are … What are we?" first album. Maybe that’s why RCA snatched them up quicker than you can grease a pig. Whether I used that expression correctly is beyond the point — the point is that the Kings of Leon know what they’re doing; they look the part because they are the part. As musicians, that speaks volumes … for a band whose lyrics are often hard to make out.