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In Retrospect: Youth and Young Manhood by The Kings of Leon

In this new web- exclusive series, OTwo Music will look at some of the best forgotten albums of the last 60 years and explore the reasons why they should still be on everybody’s playlists.

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A grey sky, looming and damp, hangs over the mid-afternoon quiet of Belfield. Only the brave few venture out even as far as the benches opposite O’ Reilly lake. This is a lazy day and I’m certainly not the only one feeling it. Everywhere tired students slump, most are scrolling listlessly through their phones. Not the sort of picture you’d see on the invite to the UCD open day.

I find my remedy in the electric sound of The Kings Of Leon’s debut album – Youth and Young Manhood. An album fit to surely displace apathy in any circumstance. Suddenly fired up to the point of giddiness, I’m compelled to write my proclamation of Youth and Young Manhood as a largely over looked classic and one of the all-time great albums.

“It’s the type of adrenaline provoking song that would make you do cartwheels around the second floor in the James Joyce.”

It’s been many years since I first heard the raucous guitars on album opener ‘Red Morning Light’ but it continues to prompt the hairs on the back of my neck to stand to attention. What about the   screaming chorus on ‘Wasted Time’? It’s the type of adrenaline provoking song that would make you do cartwheels around the second floor in the James Joyce.

Casual listeners may associate the group with the polished and professional sounds of ‘Sex on fire’ and much of the band’s later material. This, for me, is not at all the sound that comes to mind thinking of The Kings Of Leon. I hear the messy product of four adolescents (the youngest member being 16 at the time of the album’s release) pouring heart and soul into the instruments they were still very much trying to learn. In this respect, some parallels may be drawn between Youth and Young Manhood and The Arctic Monkeys debut Whatever People Say I am, that’s What I Am Not.

“great music is not found in the details but in the sound as a whole and the feeling which it invokes in the listener.”

Fans of the virtuoso won’t find much of interest in Youth and Young Manhood. The singing can be pitchy at times, the rhythm section a little out of sync and the lead guitar isn’t exactly ground breaking. This hardly seems relevant when listening to the album. I firmly believe that great music is not found in the details but in the sound as a whole and the feeling which it invokes in the listener. This is why the most popular musicians are largely not the most proficient ones. Music is indeed both an art and a craft but the casual listener will always lean heavily toward the art. This is why Youth and Young Manhood is one of the all-time great albums. It is art in its rawest form. A reflection of youth itself; bawdy, loud, sometimes arrogant and sometimes naïve but always beautiful.