Holy Rock 'n Rollers: The Story of Kings of Leon By Joel McIver Omnibus Press, 320 pp., $24.95.
Just in time the release of their fifth record, Come Around Sundown, comes the second biography (after Michael Heatley's Kings of Leon: Sex on Fire) of the three-brothers-and-a-cousin band from Tennessee with the incredible backstory, amazing music and often questionable haircuts.
It's a credit to veteran music scribe and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath author Joel McIver's journalistic skill that he's able to tell such a comprehensive story on a band with a relatively short - and still evolving - career. And while a good portion of the Kings' quotes seem to come from other sources, Holy Rock 'n Rollers is no hackneyed clip job, as the narrative flows quite naturally.
It's also seems appropriate that McIver is English, since that's where the Kings were playing sold-out amphitheatres and arenas for years before reaching similar levels here, thanks to the more alt-friendly sound of Only By the Night and the massive singles "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody."
But, as McIver points outs, the commercial triumphs have split their followers. Kings front man Caleb Followill cleaves them into "fans of the band" and "those who like 'Sex on Fire.'" Brother Nathan adds a third category: "Those who don't cheer or sing along to 'Sex on Fire' on purpose to show that they were fans long before." Yikes!
McIver offers plenty of discussion and analysis on the musical development of the band and details the songs on each album, stopping short just before Sundown. And considering that bassist Jared Followill was only 15 and had never played an instrument before when the Kings started, the foursome - with the help of a couple of producing and songwriter partners - have certainly come a long way.
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The book also spends a lot of ink perhaps a little too much on the Kings' voracious consumption of drugs, booze and groupies earlier in their career. But since the band played it up in interviews and reveled in that reputation for so long, it's not simply titillation. If anything, Caleb's Jekyll-and Hyde changes are telling.
The guy even has a moniker for the person he becomes under the influence ("The Rooster"), whom even he admits is a shithead. Whether the Boys Gone Wild aspect stems from their cloistered religious upbringing, young age, rock and roll debauchery, or all three, the male reader at least is left with feelings of intense jealousy!
Undoubtedly, Holy Rock 'n Rollers will morph into other editions with updates as the years pass and the Kings of Leon story unfolds. That this is a band with the potential for real staying power is not in question.
That they don't burn out before they do it though, is.