Review Summary: The dirtiest preacher's sons around make a triumphant return with their first record in three years.
So you’ve overcome second album syndrome with a critically-acclaimed improvement of your first record. Fantastic. But the question remains- where do you go from here?
Invariably, this is the question that the boys Followill- Nathan, Caleb, Matt and Jared- have asked themselves. So on to album number three. Entitled Because of The Times- so called, says Caleb, because “if the record sells, it’s because of the times; if the record fails, it’s because of the times”- the band seem to have taken similar approaches as bands like The Strokes
; when you hear this record, you’ll know it’s them, but you will also immediately notice changes.
The album begins as such with “Knocked Up”. Several special things about this song; for one, it’s the longest song the band have ever done at seven-plus minutes. Not a lot’s been done with this song production-wise either, as it sounds like it’s just another jam session song (if listening closely, the Followills can be heard conversing in the first few seconds). Matt’s chirpy lead guitar is backed well by an almost militant drumroll that remains persistent throughout.
Lyrically, the song deals with teen pregnancy in a small town- “I don’t care what nobody say/We gonna have a baby”, Caleb sings in his usual drawl. It’s a darkly themed song, but it sort of seems that the music doesn’t fit- a rollicking jam reminiscent of U2
’s very early days with a bit of classic [L[Neil Young[/L] thrown in. Nevertheless, the sound is rich, despite low-key production, especially with the heart wrenching sounds of the Followill boys howling a “whoa-oh whoa-ohhhh”. Overall, this is a fantastic introduction to the album.
Sounds then proceed to “Charmer”. Run-of-the-mill Kings rocking out. Except for one little thing. “She’s such a charmer, oh no”, Caleb drawls. Nothing surprising, you think. Until suddenly Caleb does something with his voice that this writer can honestly say has never heard done on record anywhere else. “WEOOOOOOOOOOOWWWW” is the rough translation, but what IS it? A howl? A squeal? A scream? Whatever the hell it is, it sure as hell makes you pay attention to the song’s goings-on. It’s a definitive rocker; it wouldn’t have been out of place on either of the bands’ previous records (this has its good and bad points).
The band still bring some top songs to the table- the fantastic drums and gang vocals of “McFearless”(yeah, I thought it was stupid too) is a standout, as is “My Party”, apparently written about former O.C star Rachel Blison, and arguably their most danceable song since “Wasted Time”. Again, the rest of the band delivers with excellent backing vocals and the best use of a cowbell in a song since Queens Of The Stone Age
’s “Little Sister”, and before that, the band’s own “California Waiting”.
There’s also the excellent “Ragoo”, which is musically all over the shop. It has an introductory riff that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern punk band, which is then mixed into a beat that sounds almost electronic and if THAT wasn’t enough, the song leads into a top modern rock hook.
Still, the band bring a few forgettable tracks as well, like “Camaro” and “Arizona”, which, oddly enough, is the closer.
There’s no really bad tracks on this album; it’s more of a case that there aren’t enough really good tracks. The album seems to lose its legs in parts and would definitely benefit from a reshuffling of the tracklist.
Throughout this record, it’s where the Followills try stuff they have never tried before that they excel. The keys, sequencer and vocal effects used in lead single “On Call”, with hugely catchy pop hooks and a Pixies-like flow; the ¾ sway and choir outro of “The Runner”, arguably the best song on the album, especially when Caleb howls his religious side- “I talk to Jesus every day”; the sparse instrumentation of the bluesy “Trunk”- these tracks stand out and are album highlights because they’re DIFFERENT. If only the band would move out of their comfort zone more, this record would have been absolutely brilliant.