Kings of Leon, Because of the Times (RCA)

Funny, in England Kings of Leon are considered a southern rock band. At Voodoo, they sounded so British. Not in voice—Caleb Followill’s yowl is so backwoods as to make you wonder how many branches there are on the family tree—but the song structures and sounds had far more to do with the edgy unpredictability of Britpop than they do with the classic rock familiarity of southern rock.

There’s no question: Because of the Times feels like great rock ’n’ roll, just as their last two albums do. The songs are defined by a very agreeable blend of hard guitar churn with some Edge-ish harmonics—likely a product of opening for U2—and hooks emerge out of nowhere. A song such as “McFearless” is slightly cryptic, but its drive, big guitars and Caleb’s regular return to the phrase, “It’s my soul” make it sound important and urgent. “My Party” is simpler, high energy fun that, like a funky Stones jam, has an air of decadence which makes it even cooler.

If nothing else, Kings of Leon deserve love because they sound like rock stars in a time when no one seems to want to be. They make music that sounds like something big, something made for mass consumption without catering to mass tastes (that’s the hard part). It doesn’t all work. Some of the songs take sorting out, some are just average ideas executed with a lot of commitment. Still, the nerve to take chances in public is part of the band’s charm as well.