This debut EP clocks in at just over 15 minutes, but it drops an explosively powerful sonic chunk, a melding of '90s garage rock and '70s Southern boogie. Despite its brevity, it may be one of the best rock releases of the year.
The Nashville-based Kings of Leon all answer to the last name Followill: brothers Caleb (singer, rhythm guitar), Nathan (drums) and Jared (bass) and cousin Matthew (lead guitar). They had a genuine Southern gothic-style upbringing on the road with their father, a Pentecostal preacher with a penchant for Neil Young and Bad Company.
Caleb's laid-back vocals are sometimes in jarring contrast with the searing guitar work in "Molly's Chambers" and "Wasted Time," both full-on, raunchy, fist-pumping blasts that manage to be danceable. "Wicker Chair" starts off with a lolling beat and slowly builds into a screaming monster by the end.
But two tracks bring this band's real strengths into sharp relief. There's the title number, a thunderous, Elmer Gantry-style paean to sin and salvation, and the blissed-out, surf-tinged "California Waiting." The latter transcends its simple premise, which is to make an attractive postcard for the state. Instead, the band paints a picture worthy of another group composed of three brothers and a cousin, that little California group that gave us "Good Vibrations." (Guitarist/co-songwriter Angelo, and Ryan Adams producer Ethan Johns help throughout, and will do the same on the band's upcoming full-length record.)
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The Kings have already gotten a fair share of journalistic buzz, but in this case it's more than warranted. Incredibly, the family members range in age from 16 to 23, and bassist Jared's work is already a highlight despite his only picking up the instrument a year ago. Don't know if these guys sold their souls to the highest bidder to sound this good, but Holy Roller Novocaine pitches stakes for a tent revival worthy of more than one hallelujah. -- Bob Ruggiero