From young-dumb-and-full-of-thrum punk country upstarts to mature masters of cavernous stadium rock, it’s been a long and crazy trip for Kings Of Leon – frazzled by bad drugs, feted by huge crowds, tested by internal problems ‘bigger than Gatorade’ and occasionally arse-bombed by pigeons. Along the way they’ve produced some of the most wailable and affecting songs of the century so far, and to celebrate the approach of seventh album ‘WALLS’, here’s our pick of the top ten…
10. ‘Use Somebody’
Though ‘Revelry’, ‘On Call’ and ‘Knocked Up’ all come close, of KOL’s vast array of nocturnal desert rock epics only the mighty ‘Use Somebody’ makes my Top Ten, thanks to its ability, every time it comes on the radio, to make the A242 to Woking feel like you’re freewheeling into Death Valley at dusk.
The first shoots of their current return-to-form, the first single from “Mechanical Bull’ was built on the driving Northern Soul beat of their finest early hits and found Caleb on righteous melodic form. Their ‘Town Called Malice’, kind of.
Rarely has a rock star sounded quite so happy to be suffering from drug-induced erectile dysfunction, but ‘Soft’ epitomises the ultra-frank, horny-ass early days of KOL, the Southern Strokes (as was). “I’d pop myself in your body, I’d come into your party but I’m soft,” Caleb yowls as his band decide that impotence is definitely the best topic to carry their version of ‘Last Nite’. Genius.
Slouching into view like a drunk with bad intentions, ‘Fans’ is essentially 3:45 of funky-hipped riffs and Caleb repeating the same croaking, acrobatic verse like a man who knows he’s too high and cool to bother with a chorus. Mighty.
6. ‘Joe’s Head’
‘Molly’s Chambers’ and ‘Holy Roller Novocaine’ were the popular favourites from KOL’s irrepressible debut ‘Youth & Young Manhood’, but the Southern Gothic country punk tale of ‘Joe’s Head’, a revenge murder story told by a still-bloodstained jilted boyfriend in a bar, outstripped both in terms of pure, whiskey-fuelled Tennessee pop mania.
The stand-out from their new album ‘WALLS’, ‘Wild’ is one of those effortlessly euphoric pop tracks that bands make once they’ve worked out how to turn their guitars into hang-gliders. Amazingly, it almost ended up as a b-side.
4. ‘California Waiting’
The reason KOL were tagged the Southern Strokes in the first place, ‘California Waiting’ sounds as raw, ragged and as lusty as a coyote on heat today as it did back in 2002.
It must’ve been a full moon when, for three demented minutes in the middle of 2007’s ‘Because Of The Times’, Kings Of Leon turned out to be secret werepixies, suddenly turning out a cross between Pixies’ tracks ‘Debaser’ and ‘Tame’. As savage and brilliant as it was unexpected.
2. ‘Sex On Fire’
A song about a particularly virulent case of gonorrhoea (possibly), Caleb hates it now – presumably because of all the scorched genitals he’s had to sign as a result of fans taking it too seriously. But the sheer sugar-rush momentum of KOL’s biggest hit makes it their firmest foot in rock legend. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this song, please contact the Mid-Coital Spontaneous Combustion Foundation on 0800 BURNYSHAG.
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1. The Bucket
A page torn from the diary of a bleary and belligerent teenage rock god, ‘The Bucket’ marks the pinnacle of early KOL’s jittery jubilance. Scientists are still working tirelessly to ascertain if it’s possible to get to the end of this song without pressing ‘play’ again.