The cover blurb of a recent U.S. music magazine said it all: "Kings of Leon -- When Will America Wake Up?" Treated like rock gods in the UK, the Kings are, unbelievably, still only the prince's footmen at home. This, despite their two phenomenal records. It's only natural that the three-brothers-and-a-cousin band would want to stretch out on their third studio effort, a career-sustaining lesson learned from Dylan, Pearl Jam and U2 (the Kings have opened for all three). Unfortunately, Because of the Times is a musical disappointment, a record full of wandering sonic sketches that never really coalesce. Tracks here are at times vapid ("Charmer," "Camaro"), meandering ("McFearless") or just plain blah-sounding ("True Love Way," "Trunk"). Famously slurring singer Caleb Followill actually enunciates, and drummer brother Nathan is impressively versatile with his backbeats, but these efforts can't overcome the weak material. But the record's handful of bright spots are very bright. "Black Thumbnail" is the big, stadium rock-rave-up the band can rip the shit out of live. "Ragoo" and "Fans" are catchy and joyous. And "Arizona" is an epic, driving number with a fresh sound that hints at what the rest of the record should have been. With the seeming exception of AC/DC, bands must evolve musically in order to stay relevant, if not popular. These Times are a-changin'--but not for the better.
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