Minute By Minute | Kings of Leon’s ‘Talihina Sky’ is a Confused, Shoddy Mess
In Minute By Minute, we analyse long form music films and documentaries, pausing the chosen subject as each minute unfolds in a bid to make sense of it all. In this edition, we turn our attention to good ol’ boys Kings of Leon and their Talihina Sky…
Long Story Short: “The story of Kings of Leon as told through archival material, home movies and documentary footage inside the studio and on tour. A unique look into their family history and religious upbringing which set the stage for one of the biggest rock bands in the world.”
Confession Corner: I can’t stand Kings of Leon. I never could. ‘Sex on Fire’ is a crime against music and I don’t buy the myth that their first two albums are anything other than lazy recycled trash. They have nothing even approaching charisma and their signature sound is ultra-bland. Nonetheless, let’s spend an hour and a half in their company…
00:00 Two of the Followill clan mill about on Segways in an empty arena during soundcheck. They’re just like us!
01:00 More of this. I like the idea that this whole film will be Kings of Leon living some kind of Jetsons-esque lifestyle but I’ve a feeling we’re in for a more down and dirty ‘back to our roots’ character-forming tale.
02:00 Lo and behold, the boys’ private jet touches down in a fairly rustic-looking locale, the marriage of modernity and quaintness realised as some rickety blues song plays over the scene.
03:00 A quick montage of small-town staples, most notably the red-brick church (?) with JESUS IS LORD plastered on the side. Seconds later, Caleb reveals that he “got to second base” with one of his cousins in a favourite childhood haunt. “Tough times”, he says.
04:00 After four minutes, our title card emerges. This is going to move with the pace of a snail, isn’t it?
05:00 Five minutes in and we’ve already met several talking heads only the filmmakers don’t seem to like the whole ‘introducing people’ custom and thus nobody has been named or properly identified via a standard graphic. Even the patriarch of 3/4 of the band had to take a moment to reveal who he was. Bodes well, this.
06:00 A photograph of Caleb and Nathan that looks like they’re auditioning for a Hall & Oates-style project.
07:00 We learn that Nathan once had a brain tumour until the community prayed for its successful removal (?). Jared recalls how people would pay his father to come and ‘revive’ their churches. There’s a scam here somewhere…
08:00 Mr Followill, who seems a decent sort, criticises the type of preacher who begs for money and claims that a life of selling out for commercial gain wasn’t for him. He is their father, right?
09:00 We visit an early Followill dwelling. It’s grim scenes, to be fair, the kind of haunted house you’d catch in a low budget horror complete with bars across the window. Overlooking a city with a glass of wine in his hand, Caleb recalls the “shame and humiliation”. #contrast
10:00 After some veiled dark hinting, is it revealed via Jared that their parents got a divorce, which pleased him. The big sadist.
11:00 We meet more of the clan and learn of the in-breeding that would one day result in one of the world’s biggest rock bands. No, really.
12:00 Home video footage of Nathan and Caleb singing in church. Some serious fashion going on.
13:00 Again, the filmmakers don’t think that context or handy time-stamping is important so we get footage of what, thanks to their haircuts, is clearly very early Kings of Leon hanging around in a room somewhere while also seeing Caleb in relatively recent times reflecting on how television was “the one-eyed devil” and thus barred from corrupting their youth.
AND YOUNG MANHOOD, AM I RIGHT?
14:00 Pixies’ wonderful ‘Where Is My Mind??’ plays over the soundtrack as the boys discuss their influences before we get shots of them smoking joints and getting their dicks out. Earlier, we saw them watching porn. The family that plays together, eh?
15:00 Right as Black Francis talks of swimmin’ in the Caribbean, we see former Face to Face man and KOL co-writer/producer Angelo Petraglia do his Jesus Christ Pose on a bike. Jared talks this guy up without even saying his surname and I really hope you don’t expect the film to fill that particular blank in.
16:00 Angelo, still not properly identified, joins the talking head fray. Christ this is shoddy. He notes that Caleb and Nathan were originally a duo until he suggested Jared pick up bass guitar and get involved. Cheers Angelo, hope you get to speak on a ramshackle-as-fuck documentary about the band you helped form someday.
17:00 Matthew’s parents (I PRESUME?!) recall their conflict regarding their son’s potential interest in what his mother (I guess?) describes as “devil music”. Don’t get me wrong, you can figure out who these people are and hey maybe I’ve been spoon-fed by too much aggressive media but still, this whole information withholding business is bizarre.
18:00 Arty black and white footage of an early gig. Their first? Fucked if I know. Caleb notes that their Holy Roller Novocaine EP is coming out in a couple of weeks with a record to follow in the summer. So that makes it 2003. They have a record deal by this point. NOT THAT YOU’D KNOW ANY OF THIS IF YOU JUST WATCHED THIS FILM.
19:00 They’re BIG, baby! 300,000 copies sold. Of the EP? The album? Again, no idea.
20:00 Crowd shot of what I’m nearly sure is Oxegen, which would make it 2008. I was there! I caught about four songs. It sucked.
21:00 Back in the sticks with one of the family members who looks like Kurt Sutter’s character from Sons of Anarchy. I don’t know who this guy is. He could be an uncle? BLAME THE FILMMAKERS.
22:00 Their grandfather (this one I am sure of) chuckles about a disused school bus that could wind up as a touring vehicle. Caleb notes that they named the band after him.
23:00 This guy scares me a little.
24:00 They stack rocks like something out of The Blair Witch Project. A dog pisses on them.
25:00 Jared, driving a car and sporting his fifth or sixth different haircut of the film so who knows what fucking year it is now, uses the word ‘cool’ so much it’s making my head start to spin.
26:00 Hanging out in the studio with this crew looks quite boring.
27:00 And so it proves to be, even during a tense moment.
28:00 One of them is repeatedly hitting an amp and it’s really fucking irritating.
29:00 Onstage. Yawn.
30:00 Home video footage of Jared blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
31:00 Back in the woods with discount Kurt Sutter. Call me ignorant but I feel like this could turn into True Detective at any moment.
32:00 The film shifts focus to a creek. Like it has anything resembling focus.
33:00 More creek ‘action’.
34:00 This was a bad idea. I don’t even see what a diehard fan could get out of this mess.
35:00 I mean, it’s genuinely mind-numbing. Nothing is happening.
36:00 It’s about as coherent as that short film Marilyn Manson tacked on to The Golden Age of Grotesque.
37:00 Did you see that?
39:00 Seriously, it’s pathetic and it marked the start of his decade-long slide into becoming everything he previously lampooned.
40:00 The Pale Emperor, though, is fucking choice. He’s back!
41:00 And I guess I’m back to Nashville or wherever this thing is set. Footage of the band strutting through an airport. Nathan is tired. I feel you, brother.
43:00 People are drunk and mostly topless and also singing. I have no idea why.
44:00 They’re playing the ancient game of quoits. Aka ‘horseshoes’.
45:00 Caleb, looking every inch a Topman model, steps up and nails it.
46:00 Sounds exciting, right?
47:00 In no way could it not make for interesting cinematic material.
48:00 And yet.
49:00 Caleb, in studio and on the phone to his lady, sounds guilty and apologetic.
50:00 What did he doooooooo
51:00 Yet another montage of the boys rockin’ out, only this time it’s spliced to numerous clips of religious people having fevered epiphanies.
52:00 I just want to go home.
53:00 I am home, but I’d definitely have fled a screening of this were I at one.
54:00 ‘Use Somebody’ plays while Caleb bristles as he talks about how a suit from the label came down and was all, ‘Hey that’s a single and so’s that one and hey that one too!’. That’s millionaire mainstream rock sensation Caleb Followill of KINGS OF FUCKING LEON dissing The Man, there.
55:00 Like he claims to resent having to play ‘Sex on Fire’ every night but it pays your goddamn bills, mate.
56:00 The lads diffuse tension by getting high.
57:00 Caleb complains about radio wanting ‘watered down’ and ‘corny’ songs. This transitions into him singing the ‘Woaaaah-ohhh-ohhhh!’ bit from ‘Use Somebody’, a song that helped inflict Of Monsters and Men, The Lumineers and Kodaline on us. Thanks, dude.
58:00 Nathan complains about having to listen to songs like ‘Use Somebody’ on the radio to get to a good song. WHY DID YOU FUCKING WRITE IT, THEN?
59:00 I don’t think I can finish this.
60:00 There’s over half an hour to go.
61:00 Mama Followill reflects on Papa Followill’s ‘double life’. I think it’s an infidelity thing rather than him being a secret KGB agent or anything along those potentially intriguing lines.
62:00 Or maybe it’s alcohol. “You can’t be a preacher and drink”, notes Jared.
63:00 Nathan says that the divorce taught him how to be a better person.
64:00 Montage of Kings of Leon clapping and praying together.
65:00 Pops (his name is Ivan, btw) is asked if God would approve of what his kids have grown up to be. “Not really”, he says.
66:00 More clapping.
67:00 SOMETHING IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING KLAXON! And it’s a fight. Caleb is pissed off. Not sure why. He’s shoving a camera and someone is telling him to sit down and shut his fucking mouth. I don’t know who’s behind the camera. They’re furious. “You’re a piece of shit and your goddamn band can’t fucking stand you”. (!!!) Caleb is just taking this. It’s one of the brothers.
68:00 Hugs in a separate shot take us away from the only interesting bit of the film.
69:00 Mother Followill is tearing up, having gone on another religious ramble.
70:00 Still going. Something about speaking in tongues.
71:00 You know what? I’m done. This film sucks. There is nothing of value here. If a film student turned it in they’d be booted off the course. If any professional critic gave it a pass they need to hand in their badge and gun.