Despite their well-publicized evangelical upbringing, I have no idea what religion Kings of Leon practice. I suspect they’d make lousy Buddhists — because repetition, when it’s feeding meditation, is supposed to lead to deep thoughts, and no matter how many times you repeat, “She said call me now, baby / And I’d come a-runnin’,” it doesn’t quite cut it. That’s not to say these Tennessee brothers (and a cousin), who sound like Bobcat Goldthwait fronting the Strokes, don’t excel at unlocking grooviness from a word or a note or two.
On “Charmer,” singer Caleb Followill lets loose a David Lee Roth — worthy shriek before every stanza. At first it’s impressive, then you kinda want to kill him, and eventually the sound settles nicely into the architecture. On “Knocked Up,” two high guitar notes float in and out for seven-plus minutes, as Followill ponders having a kid and getting off the road. But that’s about as believable as the boast that he and his bandmates are “an ornery cuss.” Everyone likes pointless bravado, but what these guys need now is songs, and this LP sounds too close to unfocused jamming. Even when a tune really pops, like the single “On Call,” it’s just a feeling. The Kings have the potential to reach nirvana, but enlightenment is a long way off.