This sure ain’t your father’s southern rock … three Followill brothers, products of a roving Pentecostal evangelist daddy named Leon, and a Followill cousin, all now resident in Tennessee, flow together the peppy pop concision of (groan) the Strokes, the lyrical instrumental flow of the Allman Brothers and the Bud-guzzling bluntness of Skynyrd, minus all of the regional posturing. As odd as it is engrossing, Youth & Young Manhood is nearly sui generis as mainstream rock goes, thanks in large part to Caleb F.’s lazy rasp, which has been likened — and not without some intermittent justification, especially on the album-opening “Red Morning Light” — to Elmer Fudd. For all their strength and urgency, the songs are murky and elusive, full of flavor without employing obvious clichés or touchstones. “California Waiting,” cause of an unfortunate “Southern Strokes” tag, is a ripping good pop song about god knows what. “Spiral Staircase” is a surly driver that races itself to the finish line, waving to a couple of mid-’60s Dylan rockers along the way. Played with more of a punk emphasis (and a far less sucky guitar solo), the inveigling “Molly’s Chambers” could be a Nirvana track. “Joe’s Head,” framed by a pretty and pungent guitar figure, floats along like a breeze until Caleb revs up and starts growling loudly about putting a bullet to someone’s head. Even more confounding, “Dusty” ends with pulsing feedback under a refrain of “Thrills are cheap and love divine.” Hunh? Kings of Leon are the sort of band you turn your back on at your own peril.
The EP previews the album with four songs from it (“Molly’s Chambers,” “Wasted Time,” “California Waiting,” “Holy Roller Novocaine”) and one more (“Wicker Chair”).