AUGUST 21, 2003
RED Reviews
By Jamie Gadette, Christian Gentry and Autumn Thatcher

Youth and Young Manhood
Kings of Leon
RCA Records
(out of 5)

While the band’s debut album didn’t hit streets until Aug. 19, Kings of Leon has already attracted significant waves of alternating praise and criticism.

Four Tennessee lads cum rock and-roll ingenues discovered by legendary producer Steve Rabolvsky are being touted as a “Southern Strokes” in tribute to Rabolvsky’s other golden boys. Yet despite all of the buzz, it seems that not enough people are actually listening to the group’s sound.

Youth and Young Manhood is a kick-ass, guilty-pleasure album without too much latent guilt. The record falls somewhere between Lynryd Skynryd and the multitude of overhyped faux garage-rock acts currently littering the streets of New York.

Much of the negative criticism hurled toward the Kings references a lack of originality. Perhaps, but there is something incredibly appealing about classic rock played in the key of dirty irreverence. Tracks such as “Molly’s Chambers” and “Red Morning Light” could easily find homes on radio stations promoting either contemporary or classic hits. Lead vocalist and second-oldest brother (the Kings feature three sons of a preacher man and their cousin) Caleb Followill comes off as a cross between Tom Petty and Elvis Costello. He’s the shady character who daddy warned his little girl about—leaning up against a souped-up Mustang outside of her house at midnight with a 12-pack of Pabst, calling out, “In the morning, oh we’ll see/ Just how crazy young love can be,” or “I’ll be prancing around in my high heels, your cherry lipstick/ Look out your window/ That’s where I’ll be.”

Although certain numbers, such as “California’s Waiting,” are spoonfuls of upbeat pop sensibility similar to current “it” bands, “Trani,” “ Dusty” and “Genius” ooze an innate backwater soul not found in any studio’s mainframe. Will Kings of Leon believe the hype and sell out? Only time will tell. Until then, revel in the music it made when grits and a cigarette were the only requirements for a good jam.

Conscious Contact
Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons

Terminus Records
(out of 5)
Local CD

A Southern rocker from Portland? That is where longtime crooner Jerry Joseph finds himself.

The exodus to the South all started in the Rockies. In addition to a few solo releases, Joseph was the front man for Little Women, a reggae/rock band from Boulder, Colo., and as of recent years for Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons, which includes bassist Junior Ruppel and drummer Brad Rosen.

Through many albums and tours, Joseph and his bandmates found themselves recording their fifth LP, Conscious Contact, in Athens, Ga. (Does R.E.M. sound familiar?) Contrary to previous albums, like Salt Lake City (1998), Conscious Contact tends to lean more on simple melody then edgy harmony and rhythm. Although songs like “Fastest Horse in Town” and “Ching-a-ling” have the same rawness and R.E.M.-esque drone found in previous albums, Contact swells with a simplistic sentimentality that you can find with Tom Petty and his “heartbreaking” tunes.

The best way to categorize Contact is “been there done that.” There isn’t any new ground broken here. While the lyrics strive for a niche of sentimentality, they are oftentimes obscured by a lousy boom-chuck country beat.

Sometimes the lyrics try too hard to be profound: “And the 10 killer fairies won’t pull us apart/ And I will hold you here in my sacred heart.” Yet almost every song on this album falls short of profundity, landing on a mattress drenched in sappy sentimentality. Song after song is the same bar-music hum drum. But if you are into non progressive songs from the local pub, JJJ is your ticket.

The Starting Line
Say it Like You Mean it
Drive-Thru Records
(out of 5)

Themes of teenage angst over a broken heart mix well with those of being gummy-bear happy as part of a pop-punk band, touring cities big and small. The Starting Line offers this type of mixed emotions. The quartet of young guys (very young, in fact, the oldest 23, while the youngest is only 18) provides for easy listening pleasure without being overly cheesy.

Though its album, Say it Like You Mean it, isn't bursting with new elements of punk, it does provide an array of songs that focus on various aspects of teenagehood. Lead singer Ken Vasoli, sets the tone for heartbreak immediately in the very first song, “Up and Go,” crying, "Here it goes/ It won't take long/ Just let me dedicate this song/ To a girl who turned this boy to stone". Though simple, Vasoli’s aching voice compensates for the blatantly obvious lyrics.

The band has much to offer to younger audiences, giving them an opportunity to learn more about the band itself, while at the same time being able to connect with the guys as individuals. The songs are catchy and, though they don't possess deep symbolism or words that could have various definitions, they are fun to listen to and easy to sing along with.

Say it Like You Mean it is rockin’ and reveals the soft hearts of spikey-haired, punk boys. If nothing else, track five, “A Goodnight's Sleep,” is worth a listen. It painfully reminds the listener of that one person who truly broke his or her heart. The songs are light, yet entertaining, proving that these guys were made for pop-punk.


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Damn Fine



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