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Kings of Leon 

Because of the Times (RCA)

The cover blurb of a recent U.S. music magazine said it all: "Kings of Leon -- When Will America Wake Up?" Treated like rock gods in the U.K., the Kings are -- unbelievably -- nothing more than the prince's footmen at home. This, despite two phenomenal records.

It's only natural that the three-brothers-and-a-cousin group stretches out on its third studio effort, a career-sustaining lesson learned from Dylan, Pearl Jam, and U2. Unfortunately, Because of the Times is a musical disappointment, a record full of wandering sonic sketches that never really coalesce. Tracks here are at times vapid ("Charmer," "Camaro"), meandering ("McFearless"), or just plain blah-sounding ("Trunk"). Famously slurring singer Caleb Followill actually enunciates, and drummer-brother Nathan is impressively versatile with his backbeats, but these efforts can't overcome the weak material.

The record's handful of bright spots, however, are very bright. "Black Thumbnail" is the big stadium-rocker. And "Arizona" is an epic, driving number with a fresh sound that hints at what the rest of the record should have been.

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