Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown

by Ashley Curtis Rating:5.5 Release Date:2010-10-18

Kings of Leon have been getting a bit of bad press lately. Early fans of the band seem to be turning against the Southern foursome for a number of reasons: the band's commercially successful hit 'Sex on Fire' is played every five minutes in local nightclubs; they verbally attacked the Reading Festival audience after the latter booed them during their headlining slot; their previous album, Only By the Night, didn't get the warmest reception from critics and fans alike. Even the animal kingdom had their say - they weren't too happy either. So, how do you avoid this obvious oversaturation and backlash against your band? By jumping straight into the recording studio and releasing a new album, of course.

Come Around Sundown seems to begin where Only By the Night finished off - a continuation of their grand, stadium-filling sound. It's fair to say that if their previous album didn't impress you then Come Around Sundown isn't going to magically change your feelings towards the band. One particular online publication branded Kings of Leon as the 'Southern U2' and, as crass as it is being associated with U2, it could not be more apt. The tones on Matthew and Caleb Followill's guitars are reminiscent of comedian Bill Bailey doing his impression of The Edge. The amount of delay and echo effects is staggering but, in some ways, the reverb and delay effects actually provide a rich layer of atmosphere. You don't achieve that arena filling sound with lo-fi, grainy textures but it's just a shame that it seems to be used all too frequently.

Opening track 'The End' is a perfect example. Rhythm guitarist and lead singer Caleb typically aches over the chorus, straining out "This could be the end/ 'cos I ain't got a home" while lead guitarist Matthew adds that familiar effects-based layer of shoegaze-esque guitar underneath. Don't mistake all these effects jibes as criticism though - it actually gives the opening song a lot of depth. Lead single 'Radioactive' also treads very familiar ground with all the musicians coming together at the end in a crescendo of echo and reverb. This mixture of epic sounding guitars and Caleb's soulful but narrow vocals continue throughout this first half of the album. 'Pyro', 'Mary', The Face' and 'The Immortals' all come and go leaving a sense of "is this really it?" about the record. For all the press talk from Caleb saying the new album will be "chilled out and beach-y" as well as "darker and grungier" (two completely contradictory statements; the mind boggles), it actually seems to be none of those.

That's until we hit 'Back Down South'. US southern archetypal playing techniques like slide guitar and fiddles make their presence felt and it feels like Kings of Leon have actually gone 'back down south' with this song. It doesn't smack of the grand, majestic stadium fodder that has populated the album so far. It sounds like the beach-y rhythms that Caleb was talking about. 'Beach Side' continues this new found trend - the subtle tone of the guitars work wonderfully well with Caleb's southern drawl and you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the turning point of the album.

Unfortunately, the tedious 'No Money' is here to spoil our southern fun. The word 'filler' is pertinent here - it has none of the relaxing, feet-up qualities of the previous two tracks and neither does the following track, 'Pony Up'. This just sums up the Kings of Leon to a tee. They can have absolute flashes of brilliance - see Youth and Young Manhood, Aha Shake Heartbreak, 'Closer' from Only By The Night - but these genius pieces are marred by myriad middle-of-the-road songs that do absolutely no justice to this obviously talented band and, at 13 tracks long, the album also shows signs of outstaying its welcome thanks to these by-numbers songs.

Come Around Sundown isn't a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. 'The End', 'Back Down South' and 'Beach Side' are amongst some of the very best that the Kings of Leon have to offer. It's just unfortunate that it also showcases some of the very worst.

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