Come Around Sundown

Was it just me or do you remember the days when Kings of Leon were exciting too?

Held up by everyone from obscure indie rockers like Modest Mouse, to folk legends like Bob Dylan as one of the greats in a tame new wave. Kings of Leon seemed to represent all that was right about rock music in the decaying music industry of the noughties.

The backstory was perfect, repressed, honest, sons of preachers who seemed to spontaneously have within them this great wave of raucous rock music. Kings of Leon’s music was an unstoppable force which they just had to express and everyone took notice. A garage band of brothers stumbled upon by the entire world.

But it wasn’t just what they seemed to represent. Kings of Leon were authentic, when they released the album ‘Youth and Young Manhood’, that’s actually what it sounded like. ‘Red Morning Light’, ‘Molly’s Chambers’, ‘Holly Roller Novocaine’, for all their youthful and paranoid mistrust of women instead of being dated Zeppelin-esque misogyny, ‘The Kings’ sounded frightened and excited in equal measure by the ferocious world of lustful feelings, something we can probably all relate to. They were a young band frenetically trying to find their place in the world, understand all that was around them.

On an unstoppable rise they unexpectedly headlined Glastonbury on the back of two great albums. They grew, releasing anthemic U2 – esque singles like ‘On Call’, but they always had offbeat, exhilarating and unexpected Pixies’ esque loud-soft punk numbers like ‘Charmer’.

Even last album ‘Only By the Night’ for all its anthemic hit single aims had spontaneous surges of emotions like ‘Sex is on Fire’ which provided gratifying contrast against the meaningless arena-rock blusters of ‘Use Somobody’.

The first song of ‘Come Around Sundown’, ‘The End’ symbolises so much about ‘Come Around Sundown’, with it’s rumbling bass, echoing reverby guitars, sparse composition and ominous lyrics. Hey, doesn’t that sound kind of similar to the first song of ‘Only By the Night’ – ‘Closer’? Yup. Unfortunately it’s all rather formulaic on ‘Come Around Sundown’. It feels like King of Leon realised what sold on ‘Only By the Night’, and merely tried to repeat.

But just in case you thought the sold out, then you’ve got your answer on the same disc, as Kings of Leon unleash the Southern caterwaul of ‘Back Down South’, and establish with the hook of the lead single ‘Radioactive’, ‘It’s in the water, it’s where you came from…they dance and come together and start rising’, to remind you they still believe they know who they are.

The thing about Kings of Leon was that they didn’t have to say they were Southern, you just knew, and it sounded great. ‘Radioactive’ for all it’s know your roots Southern sentimentality, misses the kind of angular passion of ‘Molly’s Chambers’ and its thunderous hook, substituted with inoffensive hooks, and an eagerness to please.

Kings of Leon seem caught with two conflicting impulses. That of success, musical growth, and trying not to bow to pressure, to show everyone they’re still the good ‘ol boys you remember from ‘Youth and Young Manhood’.

One of the worst things, people can say about a band is that they’ve sold out. It makes you sound like a bitter ex, just jealous of success. Kings of Leon can do great anthemic indie ‘On Call’ is proof of that, but there’s nothing nearly as good on ‘Come Around Sundown’. The worst thing about ‘Come Around Sundown’ is how calculated it sounds, an attempt to merely recreate what sold 6.2 million copies of ‘Only By the Night’. For all their calculations on ‘Come Around Sundown’ Kings of Leon haven’t created anything nearly as much fun as ‘Youth and Young Manhood’.


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