Kings of Leon and Kings of Ireland....
Firstly, who caught The Walkmen rockin' the Bait Shack on the O.C. last night? Loyal viewers were rewarded with two live renditions of "Little House of Savages" and "What's In It for Me?" as the soundtrack to Seth's charming, yet bumbling inability to win Summer back. Both songs are off of Bows and Arrows; a solid album which will probably receive no year end consideration b/c it was released in January.
I'm watching ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" right now, and William Shatner's on. I didn't know he was 73. Dude looks really good for 73.
The Kings of Leon made the NME swoon back in 2002 with their debut record Youth and Youngmanhood. It makes perfect sense as to why the British hype mags fawned over these guys; they were Southern-bred brothers (and a cousin) with tight-fitting t-shirts and 70's facial hair playing that durrrty brand of 'garage-rock' that was all the rage two years ago. A "Southern-Strokes" if you will. All told, I sort of liked their first album because it only cost me $7, and had a handful of decent rock tracks to get you fired up for a night on the town. But I always figured that they were a one-trick pony incapable of expansion.
Kings of Leon have just released their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, in the UK, but it doesn't hit American shelves until February (see also - Dandy Warhols). Regardless, I've heard the album in its entirety, and must say that I'm very surprised as to what an improvement it is over the original. Whereas the first KoL record was essentially a bunch of classic rock singles designed for instant gratification (a Stones-riff here, an Allmans lick there), the new one has actual depth, is almost suite-like at times, and requires multiple listens to sink in. The listener immediately realizes he's in for something different with opener "Slow Night, So Long;" the first 40 seconds of which sounds like the introduction to "Love Will Tear Us Apart." It almost sounds as if KoL decided to ditch the faux-Skynryd-isms of their last record, and spend their free time boning up on the indie-essentials that they might not have had much exposure to in their formative years (Pixies, New Order, Gang of Four etc.). The majority of these tracks are surprisingly wank free; built off of simple riffs and Santiago-esque lead lines, and designed to be digested as an entire record as opposed to single songs (not that there aren't any stand out cuts). A surprising sophomore effort from a band of which I was not expecting much. Respek.
Despite it not officially being released until Tuesday, I managed to find a store yesterday willing to sell me U2's How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb, a few days early. After having listened to it about three times through, I agree with my colleagues at one louder, that it's far hookier and much less forced than their last two records. I would even use the word "strident," as the signature Edge guitar sound is all over the place, and perhaps with the exception of the quiet, hymn-like "One Step Closer," nearly every song could be a single. For a song that's been played to death, I'm still shockingly not sick of "Vertigo," and with its insistent RIFF and soaring chorus, second single "All Because Of You" could easily be as big. "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is far less cloying than the ballads off of All That You Can't Leave Behind, and the driving "City of Blinding Lights" (not to be confused with Zappa's "City of Tiny Lites") has all the trappings of a U2 classic. The biggest problem remains Bono's now forehead slapping lyrics ("Some people get squashed crossing the tracks / Some people got high rises on their backs" jigga what?), but how many 24-year old bands can sound this confident on their 11th (counting Rattle and Hum) studio album? Anybody else think that the last two minutes of "Original of the Species" sounds like the Wonder Years-version of "A Little Help From My Friends"?