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Kings of Leon:: Because of the Times (Album Review)

The noticeable fade-out at the seven-minute mark of opener “Knocked Up” may be everything you need to know about Because of the Times. Where 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood kicked in the stall all night, and Aha Shake Heartbreak jolted loose any notion of the proverbial sophomore slump with blue-collar, rock-star concerns – girls, dissolution, swagger – the Nashville quartet’s third LP simply plugs in both guitars, bass, and drums and faces off against producer Ethan Johns. Half the rock canon is born out of jams, but capturing Southern young manhood at its tawny, tank-top peak smacks of Seventies touchstones by the Allman Brothers and Derek & the Dominos. If Because of the Times isn’t the former’s Live at the Fillmore East (closer is last year’s KoL stealth EP Day Old Belgian Blues) or even Idlewild South, it carves Kings of Leon out of prime riff. More muscle than penmanship, more highway than garage, Because the Times rolls like Foghat at the close of Dazed & Confused. From the Pixies dust on “Charmer” to classic rock insight “Fans” and gospel-inflected “To the Runner,” Times is a Polaroid of 30 years ago, Tuesday gone with the wind. “McFearless” and “Black Thumbnail” prove too fatty, and the treated electronics of “My Party” are ill-advised, but the sustained build of “True Love Way” gives way to the cherry tones of “Ragoo,” which like the echo on “Trunk,” the band needs to explore further. Meat-and-potatoes rock still needs mashed yams to sweeten the meal. “Camaro” is the obvious “hit” after the opener, though more of an idea than an actual song, and bar-time closer “Arizona” is par for the course: Daytona.