Kings of Leon

Because of the Times (RCA)

Treated like rock gods in the U.K., the Kings are, unbelievably, still only the prince's footmen at home — despite two phenomenal records. Unfortunately, their latest, Because of the Times, is a disappointment, a record full of wandering sonic sketches that never really coalesce. Tracks range from vapid ("Charmer," "Camaro") to meandering ("McFearless") to 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. The record's handful of bright spots, though, are very bright: "Black Thumbnail" is the big stadium-rock raveup the band can rip the shit out of live. "Ragoo" and "Fans" are catchy and joyous, while "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. The Times are a-changin' — but not for the better.

 
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