The Weekly Jive

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Posted October 1, 2008 in Music

KINGS OF LEON—Only By The Night (RCA)

Tennessee family affair Kings of Leon—alongside Arcade Fire and almost anything to do with Jack White—are part of a mainstream movement towards more organic, sepia-toned Americana rock ‘n roll. But KoL’s almost overnight ubiquity five years and four albums ago wasn’t just about fashion’s stars lining-up. See, we want our rock bands to be both escapist channels to faraway places and artful articulators of the sometimes muddled sensations inside our heads and hearts—and Kings of Leon deftly deliver. Only By The Night is a Southern-accented, open-road rock record with all the exquisite melancholy and authentic angst of quality country music yet (mercifully) lacking the hokey lyrics and Hallmark melodrama of production-line Nashville fare. While the drums are sometimes processed arena-fillers, Only By The Night’s guitars and bass evoke small town pawn shops and its gentle keys linger link gossips after church. But it’s Caleb Followill’s close-to-cracking vocals on songs like dashboard-lit “Closer” and the Bics (not phones)-aloft “Use Somebody” that allow KoL’s musicality and sense of self to hit home. Sure, some of Only By The Night (*cough* “Revelry”) sounds like the inoffensive radio fodder my mom washed dishes to in the mid ‘70s, but overall there’s real craft and true transmission here. (Paul Rogers)

 

LAMBCHOP—OH (Ohio) Merge Records

There’s a tendency to view Kurt Wagner’s intimate country-soul narratives as “off-beat,” made easier by song titles like “I’m Thinking of a Number (Between 1 and 2)” and “National Talk Like A Pirate Day” from Lambchop’s tenth full-length. But their real calling card is everyday maturity; few can wrench emotion from quotidian fare like the variations on “stand” (“on/up/through/down/around,” etc.) in “Please Rise,” or the lead pencil Wagner sing-talks of in “A Hold Of You”—”It looks like others in our hands/It writes crazy things instead/It can make a list or describe a thought/Can draw a line or route/But it can’t make you respond to this.” Now in their 20th year, Lambchop has at times included 20 or more members, but the core here is limited to eight, and the songs’ tightness often belies their laid-back, shuffling pace: multiple guitar and keyboard lines intertwined helix-like, buttressed by Bacharach-esque woodwinds and string sections, and buffeted by subtle synth-noise wash. Lambchop ratchets up the energy with three well-sequenced relay stations—”Pirate,” “Sharing a Gibson With Martin Luther King Jr.,” and the funky back end of “Popeye”—but Wagner remains thankfully oblivious to the vagaries of pop and country trends. (John Schacht)

 

SENSES FAIL—Life Is Not A Waiting Room (Vagrant)
Gripping vocal hooks abound on this latest from melodic hardcore hallmarks Senses Fail and though such characteristics often seem as welcomed elements, one must apply a veil of tempered caution before indulging in the choruses found on Life is Not a Waiting Room. That’s because vocalist Buddy Nielsen’s thin, narrow-ranged performances are an acquired, love it-or-leave it taste, and after a dozen-track listen, we’re feeling a hair more inclined not to bother wrapping our arms around ‘em. The immaculate production is the disc’s major saving grace, with pummeling drums settling amidst a barrage of guitars that persistently assault the ears, expertly mixed and presented with a showroom shine like none other. For example, the double-timed “Lungs Like Gallows” bursts through like a brakeless semi, taking full advantage of the album’s sonic capabilities, particularly when it hits the mid-tempo, melodic chorus. There’s also plenty of awesome semi-metallic guitar riffing to be found, including on the bombastic “Wolves At The Door.” The calm in the middle of this distorted storm, “Yellow Angels,” has Nielsen waxing poetic on all things ethereal and imaginative. But once again, this half-timed pace finds a perfectly capable band backing only average legato vocal choruses, and ultimately testing our patience in this Waiting Room. (Waleed Rashidi)

 

 


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