Let me first of all clarify: I like Kings Of Leon. I’m not one of these indie snobs who adored ‘Molly’s Chambers’ but now affects to loathe them, ever since they started playing in velodromes and running scared from shitting pigeons.
Even so. I feel I’m justified in asking them, their label, the director, and everyone involved in this project – what the quaking ARSE is up with their new video, ‘Radioactive’?
The song itself is OK, very much in the tradition of the spacious, tick-tocking anthems (‘Closer’, ‘Knocked Up’) that have opened their last two albums.
Lyrically, it’s a going-back-to-your-roots affair (“Just drink the water where you came from”) – though there are worrying signs that Caleb has been peeking at Bono/Chris Martin’s big book of meaningless bluster.
But the video. Lord, how to begin describing the video?
Shot in soft-focus pricey-vision, it’s a weirdly Colonial affair in which our conquering rock heroes head back home to ol’ Tennessee (at least, I assume that’s where it is, given what the song’s about) and frolic with an ever-expanding squadron of beaming black children, all the while bathed in buttery sunlight.
At various points it resembles Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’, a Center Parcs ad, and a Comic Relief field report in which Lenny Henry or Griff Rhys Jones crouch in the dusty soil and bring simple joy to the faces of the locals.
A few standout moments. First we see Caleb rocking out in a barn, halo-light streaming behind him until he resembles a redneck Jesus.
Then he’s wandering white-shirted and open-necked among his flock, like the man from Del Monte in designer chinos.
Moments later we’re in Center Parcs territory, as the band demonstrate all the wholesome outdoor activities available within easy reach of their chalet. Cycling in the woods! Running through fountains! Fishing!
Presumably they cut out the scenes where the band all went for a spa treatment while the kids played crazy golf.
The staggering highlight, however, comes towards the end when bassist Jared suffers the little children to come unto him, before gathering them up with an avuncular hug, as though auditioning for a Werther’s Original advert.
What is going on here?
Is this the same band who, in the pages of NME just a few weeks ago, boasted of their ability to fill a hotel room with girls and a “mountain of cocaine” at the drop of a plectrum? Why are they suddenly acting like Scout leaders on a bivouacking trip?
“It’s in the water”, repeats Caleb. Looks like they’ve been putting something in the water, alright. This video is nuts.
’Radioactive’ is taken from ‘Come Around Sundown’, which is released on 19 October