What Happened To My Favorite Band?

As a rule I  try hard not to be the guy who says, “I was listening to them way before they got famous.”  That is what hipsters say as they wipe PBR out of their ironic mustaches.  But when it comes to the Kings of Leon I feel like I am allowed.  They have been my favorite band since I picked up their Holy Roller Novacaine EP (It was 99 cents at the register of my local record store.  Total impulse buy.) in 2002.  That summer I wore that disc out.

They had a completely unique sound, equal parts The Strokes and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  At the time I was all about anything that was proto-grunge or nu-metal (Except Limp Bizkit.  Boo Limp Bizkit always and forever.)  I credit the Kings with getting me into indie, alt-country, garage rock, etc, etc, etc.  Basically, my whole music snob existence can be traced back to a single moment.

Also, they looked like this. Awesome.

The first time I saw them live was in late 2003 in Kansas City at a little cowboy bar, a couple months before Aha Shake Heartbreak was supposed to come out.  There were only about 30 of us in the place but they played like it Madison Square Garden.  I could tell they loved the music that they were playing, and over the years they became the one band me and my friends could all agree on.

Fast forward to today and the Kings are one of the biggest bands in the world.  They have millions of dollars, multiple Grammys, and a huge, adoring audience, but they seem to be constantly immersed in personal drama.  There was the pigeon poop thing that made them look like babies, there was the Glee drama that made them look like uppity a-holes, and now they just cancelled an entire tour because of exhaustion (aka rehab) that not only leaves a bunch of fans pissed off but it bones Band of Horses, their opener and all around awesome guys.

Really, they just strike me as being very unhappy.  Take it from someone who has been going to Kings shows from the very beginning, this is not the same band.  The energy is gone.  The fun is gone.  They look like they are up there doing work.

Americans may not know this, but they have been playing stadiums in Europe since the release of Aha Shake Heartbreak and Because of the Times.  They were receiving critical acclaim (Except for Pitchfork) stateside but that was not translating into American fans and judging from interviews that seemed to gnaw at them.  You could tell they desperately wanted to be popular back home.

To do this they made an album, Only By the Night.  I am not here saying the songs are bad they are just so bland and generic.  They made a Three Doors Down album.  Everything that made them unique and appealing to me, in the first place, had been put aside in the hopes of making a little something for everyone.

Honestly, I can tell you that, as a fan, I felt cheated.  At this point they weren’t playing dives anymore.  We saw them in KC a couple months before at packed theater.  They were being supported here, but apparently it wasn’t enough.  They got greedy.

But hey, it worked and they got the honor of being overplayed just like their peers.  Now I want to shove spikes in my ears every time “Sex on Fire” or “Use Somebody” comes on.  Great, now I am unable to listen to my favorite band.

Also, they look like this now. Stop wearing your sister's goddamn jeans!

Now they are experiencing what its like to have shitty fans and I think its totally bumming them out.  You might be asking, “What do you mean:  shitty fans?”  Let me give you some quick, first hand examples.

One:  My friend watched them perform at Lollapalooza right after “Use Somebody” became the second hit off of Only By the Night.  At the end of the set the guy in front of him turns to his friend and says, “Yeah, you’re right. They do only have two good songs.”

Two:  We saw them at Red Rocks in Colorado and the placed was packed.  They played “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” towards the end of the set and after those two songs were over people started to leave even though it was the middle of the encore and they were playing a brand new song.

Three:  An acquaintance:  “Have you heard of Kings of Leon?”

Me:  “I sure have.”

Acquaintance:  “They are my favorite band.  I need to get their album.”

Me:  “Which one.”

Acquaintance:  “They have more than one?”

These are the King’s “fans” now.  The diehards who know every lyric to every song have been replaced by those people.  That would bum me out, too.  By watering down their music to appeal to a mass audience they have lost fans like me and gained casual fans.  People who will buy a ticket just to say they did and spend the bulk of the set making trips to the beer cart instead of being there for the music.  It really makes me sad because they were such an important part of the development of my musical taste.

I fear they may be lost, especially if you take into account how below average their latest, Come Around Sundown, turned out to be.  I am hoping after Caleb gets some “rest,” maybe makes a solo album, they will put all the bullshit aside and remember what made them great in the first place.  At this point I’m not all that confident of a happy ending but I will continue to hope.  Until the real Kings of Leon returns I will have to be content with my happy memories.

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7 thoughts on “What Happened To My Favorite Band?

  1. I still remember standing next to you the first time we ever heard Charmer at some underground place in KC (at a concert sponsored by Camel cigarettes I believe) and turning to each other jaw-dropped like “what the fuck that was awesome.” That was the greatest live show moment of my life. It was better than Crystal Castles in the rain, it was better than Slayer drunk and in the pit, it was better than that first time in the bar even. It was almost surreal there was so much smoke in the place you could hardly see them through the mist and the lights and all of a sudden Caleb just starts screaming, I just got goosebumps thinking about it. I miss the Kings, I listened pretty much to terrible rap until I heard Holly Roller Novacaine and had my brain-hole blown inside out. Youth and Young Manhood is still to this day my favorite album of all time, every single song on that album I think has been my favorite at one point or another in my life, (right now it’s Dusty). It pisses me off that I’m never going to hear ‘Dusty’ or ‘Wicker Chair’ or even ‘Red Morning Light’ live ever again. I remember being that person at Lolla and swearing up and down I would never go to another Kings show as fans didn’t even pay attention when they busted into about 25 minutes of songs from Youth and Aha Shake Heartbreak. Fuck what American teens and what their stupid spoiled worst-generation-ever fucking asses have turned the Kings into. Forever they will be that band that I saw in a line dancing bar on a whim my sophomore year of college. Wearing cutoff tshirts and just whatever else they found in the bottom of their luggage playing their balls off on stage for whoever would listen. I love the Kings, but in truth, I only love my recollection of the Kings, not what they have become and that pains me.

    • When people ask me what my favorite band is the first name that pops into my head is always the Kings but when I really think about it I haven’t listened to their stuff consistently for years. Its like Kings of Leon are my favorite band just not the version that exists right now. Kings of Leon from 2005 is my favorite band. I feel like this current version is a completely different band even though the lineup is the same.

  2. Youth and Young Manhood is one of my favorite albums of all time. I don’t think there is a single song on there that I can honestly say that I don’t like. I remember you making me listen to it one time and I had it constantly running for at least a month straight and I always seem to come back to it. Sadly I never got to see them in concert back in the day because someone wouldn’t take me even though I said I wanted to. I can honestly say I’m a younger fan and apologize for the rest of us.

    • How long is that going to be held over my head? In my defense we were mostly seeing them at bars and other over 21 events at the time. Still, I have wronged you. In about 6 months I will take you to some super seedy venues where we can watch the next next big thing.

  3. While I completely agree with the new fans being God-awful and their first 3 albums being far and away my favorite bunch of music. I would argue that there is more to the change in their music than simply catering to what’s popular. If you listen to interviews they have done in the past and interviews they do now about writing their songs, it’s the exact same story… “man we were shit-faced and I picked up my guitar & wrote____.” I’ve heard that same story told about spiral staircase AND Back Down South. So while a part of the reason for the change is most certainly what you said, I think an equal part of it is the increase of their musical talent. When they wrote YAYM & Aha, some of them were still learning to play their damn instruments for Christs-sakes. It led to a raw, fuck it lets just play our asses off sound that appealed to all of us.

    Actually I enjoy Only By the Night (w/ the exception of SOF & Use Somebody) & in reality we would probably like those songs too if it weren’t for the douches that it brought to their concerts. Truth be told I enjoy quite a few of the songs on Come Around Sundown but it’s most definitely not for the same reasons we all started loving them. I just think that you have to give them a little more credit than just being sell outs.

    • I see what you are saying and I see a lot of parallels between Kings of Leon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They really started playing gigs and making albums before they really knew how to play their instruments and so they were all manic energy and that appealed to a lot of people. As they became more seasoned and became real musicians their music shifted away from this kind of funk-rap hybrid style to more of a mainstream rock band but they have still managed to make solid albums.

      If is impossible for a band to stay exactly the same musically as they get older. The Kings are in a sort of weird situation because they were so damn young when they started. They weren’t even adults yet on their debut. Their music will change as they become older and have new life experiences and become better musicians, I can accept that. I just don’t feel like they have the same fire anymore. They don’t seem excited about their music anymore.

      What’s going be hard for us is that we are always going to compare every album, for the rest of their careers, with those first couple. Since we hold them in such high regard I am afraid we are setting ourselves up to always be slightly disappointed no matter how good their music becomes.

      • Completely agree… I think the lack of energy and enthusiasm probably has a ton to do with over extending themselves. I’m sure every band that makes it big goes through this and hopefully they come out on the other side in one piece. Hopefully they remember what made them great at the beginning some in the future but I think anyone longing for the good ole days will just end up disappointed. People (and bands) change & it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad it’s just not going to be the same.

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