Credit that in large part to the phenomenal rhythm section of bassist Jared Followill and drummer Nathan Followill; the punchy bass, in particular, on this record is as much the star of the show as Caleb Followill's unmistakable voice. It imbues irresistible opener "When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away" with a bouncy island quality, while bursts of charging drums punctuate the verses. It throbs so deeply on "100,000 People" that, combined with slinky guitar, you might think you're listening to a Peter Gabriel track circa '86. Meanwhile, "The Bandit"—driven by galloping drums that match the open-sky lyrics ("Chiseled their names in stone/Heavy the load you tow/ And the red horse is always close/ And the fire don't burn below")—glows bright with guitar that can only be compared to Joshua Tree-era Edge.
When KOL came out of Nashville in 2003—three sons of a Pentecostal preacher plus their cousin from Mississippi—who ever would have predicted they would be the heirs to the anthemic arena rock of Springsteen and U2? (Especially since they looked like Molly Hatchet throwbacks, all shags and mutton chops and flared jeans.) The only problem with being so big that you're a festival favorite is getting written off as having lost your edge: phoning it in, married to models and living in mansions. Those last two points may be apt, but KOL are far from phoning it in. If anything, they're still growing—actually getting better as a band, coming up with thoughtful new ways to manipulate their instruments—and still full of surprises.
"Stormy Weather" rumbles like a funk track cut with swooning guitar. "A Wave" comes on as a ballad, all moody piano and sustained organ, before erupting into a Springsteen-like bop, Caleb's voice bright like a searchlight. And while Caleb has always had a way with words, he's trying his hand at poetry this time around. "There's a glow at the face of the canyon/ And a sound blowing 'round/ Says you're nowhere you've ever been before," he sings on "Claire & Eddie"; it's not especially deep, but it is an evocative match to the loose-limbed desert drums and ghostly guitar. "My heart's hard of hearing/ My head's full of sand/ Feet point both directions if you need a hand," he sings on "Echoing," which, with its majestic marching drums and livewire guitar, feels most like the band's earliest spitfire singles (think: "The Bucket," "Molly's Chambers"). The record fades out with "Fairytale," a dreamy, strings-laden song practically floating in space. "Heard your little cause playing on the radio/ It's getting good, real good at getting old," Caleb sings. That's nothing he needs to worry about right now.