Few acts have so effortlessly avoided the difficult second album syndrome as Kings of Leon did with Aha Shake Heartbreak, purely by refining the formula of their debut. The Followills stretch themselves further on Because of the Times, featuring a surprising range of styles, from the bass-driven funk of "My Party" to the sardonic reggae-rock of "Ragoo", and the loping blues-rock of "Black Thumbnail" to the jagged, Pixies-esque rock of "Charmer" - on which they emulate not just Black Francis's serrated guitar riffing, but his trademark scream too. The soul groove "Trunk" is an impressive negotiation between verses taut with Caleb Followill's impassioned frustration and the balmy gospel-harmony refrain; but the most startling piece is "Knocked Up", dealing with a pregnant girl's determination to ignore her parents' wishes and keep her baby, and her boyfriend's ambivalent reaction. It's marvellous how the band can sustain the mood for over seven minutes, armed with little more than a simple guitar-flecked shuffle groove and Caleb's voice, one of the most distinctive instruments in rock'n'roll.
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