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Kings of Leon

Holy Roller Novocaine (RCA Records)

This debut EP clocks in at just over 15 minutes, but it drops an explosively powerful sonic chunk, a perfect melding of '90s garage rock and '70s Southern boogie. Despite its brevity, it may be one of the best rock releases of the year.

The Nashville-based Kings of Leon all answer to the last name Followill: brothers Caleb (singer, rhythm guitar), Nathan (drums), Jared (bass) and cousin Matthew (lead guitar). They had a genuine Southern gothic-style upbringing on the road with their father, a Pentecostal preacher with a penchant for Neil Young and Bad Company.

Caleb's laid-back vocals are sometimes in jarring contrast with the searing guitar work in "Molly's Chambers" and "Wasted Time," both full-on, raunchy, fist-pumping blasts that manage to be danceable. "Wicker Chair" starts off with a lolling beat and slowly builds into a screaming monster by the end.

Out of the Tennessee hills, something wicked this way comes.
Out of the Tennessee hills, something wicked this way comes.

But two tracks bring this band's real strengths into sharp relief. There's the title number, a thunderous, Elmer Gantry-style paean to sin and salvation, and the blissed-out, surf-tinged "California Waiting." The latter transcends its simple premise, which is to make an attractive postcard for the state. Instead, the band paints a picture worthy of another group composed of three brothers and a cousin, the California natives who gave us "Good Vibrations." (Guitarist/co-songwriter Angelo and Ryan Adams producer Ethan Johns help throughout, and will do the same on the band's upcoming full-length record.)

The Kings have already gotten a fair share of journalistic buzz, but in this case it's more than warranted. Incredibly, they range in age from 16 to 23, and bassist Jared's work is already a highlight despite his only picking up the instrument a year ago. Don't know if these guys sold their souls to the highest bidder to sound this good, but Holy Roller Novocaine pitches stakes for a tent revival worthy of more than one hallelujah.

 
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