WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

September 27, 2008, 12:56 pm
Filed under: New Music

Kings of Leon just put out one of the best classic rock albums of this year. Shall we deconstruct that statement? Throw tomatoes at me if you’d like, but give it a listen and you tell me. What the hell does it mean when a current band puts out a true, classic rock record? My Morning Jacket is kind of doing the same thing, but they’ve been shooting and missing for their last couple of records. Which is not to say that’s not the point, they’ve put their own modern take on the classic sound…which afterall, is the point, no? Only By the Night is through and through a classic rock record from the ’80s. It’s almost like they froze themselves in that time and intently studied the radio. We all have to get our inspiration from somewhere, right? Same exact production, same structure, same sounds, same drum parts. I’m a bit perplexed, but I can’t stop listening to it. It’s bizarre, but in a way it’s time-capsule brilliant. The sound is a little bit U2 and a little bit Springsteen. ’80s Springsteen. ’80s Genesis too? It’s even a little bit Lion King at times, which sounds as weird to write as I’m sure it does to read. Listen to track 4. Taking all that into consideration, I should not be liking this record.

“…Build the fire and stoke it up?” That’s what he just sang, right now. Even the lyrics have that cheeseball drive to them. I think that’s the exact point though. Not only are the riffs, guitar delays, drum styles and lyrics lifted from the 80s but the dress and haircuts are too! Holy crap! It’s another swindle! The bassist’s hair has total volume! There’s also some members-only jackets involved and even a sports coat or two. I just saw them on SNL this past weekend and then caught them again on Letterman the other night. What can I say, I think I have a crush on the song “Sex on Fire.” I know, the title is terrible! That’s what I’m saying! Plus, it’s a rip off cross between Springsteen’s “On Fire” and James’ “Laid.” Gone are the long hair and good ol’ Southern boy stylings that they used to have. Slick shoes and shiny boots have replaced the ol’ dust-worn boots. I really wanted to dislike this album. But I can’t, they got me. I don’t hate popular music. Contrary to wait you may or may not believe. I’ve been a fan of these guys up to when that last record came out and then i just lost them. Not because of the music, I just moved on. They did used to be a pretty righteous garage gospel band. I do however have a strong dislike for popular 80s music. Dammit. Phil Collins makes me cringe.

What’s happening here is our memory strings are being pulled. This is the soudtrack to my memories driving to and from vacations in our station wagon when I was a kid. It’s my memory of that damn No Jackets Required tape case staring stupidly at me. The only fond memory I have of that album is when someone snuck in a Metallica CD into our middle school music class in that CD jewel case. Phil Collins was looking at me, but the joke was on him.

So what is it about this album? It’s definitely a guilty pleasure, and you sure as hell are gonna catch me listening to it when you walk into the shop over the next couple months. The production is very Eno-esque from the 80s. Sound filling in the background spaces, washing over the holes and propelling the entire song force forward. Every track is familiar. Maybe that’s it. There’s an instant familiarity looming around this album. Maybe they didn’t even realize they were re-recording albums and pieces from their childhood, but I kind of find that a little hard to believe. Most art is cyclical and I guess what we do in creative terms is just a translation of what we know and what we’ve seen along the way. How our brain interprets it and reconstructs it. In their current position, they’re finally at the stage where they can afford the production and sounds that have been in their heads for however long. So what we get now is the manifestation of where they’ve come from. They’re poised to be one of arena rock’s next big things and I think they’re definitely going to rank up there. Cheesy or not. Hopefully, for their sake, they’re the ones writing these songs.


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