Kings of Leon, a Jamme band, those scary Lennon sisters and more

Kings of Leon
Come Around Sundown

Fans who were into Kings of Leon before their 2008 breakthrough album Only By the Night may enjoy their fifth CD more if they played the new songs in reverse order. That way, it'll begin on the great "Pickup Truck" and wind its way through a few songs featuring the spare-but-dynamic arrangements found on the early albums. But the rhythm section sounds busier and less forceful here, clogging up the Kings' typically economical songwriting. This sends the rest (besides the country stomp "Back Down South") straight into Soccer Mom territory. By the time the overly polite, late-era U2 chimes of "Radioactive" show up, you'll miss the rough, jangling guitars that fueled earlier Kings. But none of this will matter to listeners who came in once "Use Somebody" became a hit. Still, there's just enough of the old spark on Come Around Sundown to make older fans hold out for something better next time. —Matthew Wilkening

Fright From the Bins

The Lennon Sisters
On the Groovy Side (1967)

While the world obsesses over that other lost Lennon, let's give equal time to The Lawrence Welk Show's single biggest deposit of estrogen, the Lennon Sisters, currently feeling no love at your local Goodwill. I'm guessing your notion of "groovy" doesn't involve covering "Count Me In" a year after everyone counted Gary Lewis and the Playboys out. Or "Goin' Out of My Head" with pharmaceuticals no more powerful than Midol. Or worst of all, decking out the Lennons in paisley housedresses cut from Simplicity patterns! Surely in the Champagne music world, this album art rivaled the Beatles' butcher cover for tackiness for when this LP was reissued on Welk's own Ranwood label, Mister "wunnerful, wunnerful" replaced the groovily garbed sistahs picture with one that captured the wholesome foursome looking like four Mother Natures in a field of daisies. All that was missing was a tub of margarine. But give the gals credit, they do push the envelope in the direction of out-a-site with a perky, drained-of-all-human-emotion version of "Ode to Billie Joe" that leaves no doubt to what it was that the young MacAlister boy threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge — it was a copy of On the Groovy Side! —Serene Dominic


Now Sounds

Imagine it's late '68 and you're a green 19, dropping acid with Mia Farrow and Michele Phillips and there's sexual tension, or Terry Melcher and Lou Adler saying your band will rule the world while perfectionist John Phillips, he behind the multi-platinum Mamas and Papas, takes you under his Beverly Hills wing, signs the group to his Warlok  records and produces your album in his home studio while Sharon Tate, George Harrison, Keith Richards and others stop by. And then ... nada.

For every bad band that has hit big there's a hundred who should've and if you list the latter from all rock 'n' roll, Jammë would be perched at or near the top. No joke.

This shamefully lost 10-song album has genuine feel: It's all late-'60s Los Angeles canyon splendor, airy and suspended on Phillips-arranged harmonies, youth beat, and loud, happy-wristed guitars — there are no bad songs (absolute pop perfection in "Poor Widow," "Strawberry Jam Man," "She Sits There").

The quartet, who looked beautifully Dickensian in a sort of tousled, free-love glam way, had shockingly split by the record's belated 1970 release.

The mighty-mite Now Sounds label did this obscure gem justice — 24-page (!) booklet, original master tapes, new interviews with members, eight extra songs. ...

Fans of Badfinger, Emitt Rhodes or pre-disco Bee Gees, or pop songwriting in general, buy this now. —Brian Smith

Schoolyard Verse

Lil' Wayne's Handcuffs

I've been in the cold cell / of his wrist, freezing and waiting for someone / to take me off.

I rattle when challenged / in a prison brawl, but have never been raised.

Will I ever stop being / cold, turning to ice and rusting in the rain-shadow, / looking at this teeth.

—John Kohowski, InsideOut Literary Arts Project, 7th Grade

Download of the Week

"Punch Drunk on Black Mold"

Mason Proper's one of Michigan's most lyrical and eclectic bands. Like Radiohead, MP frontman Jonathan Visger is one prolific dude, and for songs unsuited for his main band he mans the Absofacto moniker. "Punch Drunk on Black Mold" is his 20th name-your-price release. —Travis R. Wright

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