Come Around Sundown – Kings of Leon
(Avatar Records ; 2010)
Back in 2003, the Kings of Leon were a gritty southern rock band. They had gained the attention of the rest of the world &- principally in the U.K. &- but at home in North America they were barely a blip on the cultural radar. Then they began to shed their “down south” sound for a more arena-rock vibe. With every new album, the guitars became clearer and the boys’ hair became (somewhat) shorter. Sufficient to say, when Only by the Night hit the record store shelves in 2008, America ate it up. Before long, lead singer Caleb Followill’s lamenting howl was being heard on radio stations everywhere. Now, two years down the line, one can only imagine the kind of emotions that are swirling around the release of their newest LP Come Around Sundown. If Followill’s recent comments &- namely calling their breakout hit “Sex on Fire” a “piece of shit” and declaring “We know you’re sick of the Kings of Leon. We’re sick of the Kings of Leon too,” &- are any indicator, pressure is running high. Which is no surprise, considering their previous album sold 6.2 million copies. But perhaps one shouldn’t take Followill’s comments too much to heart; Come Around Sundown should be taken with a grain of salt.
Upon first listen it is easy to see a band on the break of decay. Yet upon closer inspection the opposite becomes apparent. This is not a band about to break up, but an &- albeit tentative &- step in a new and exciting direction.
That being said, it would be a lie to say that the album doesn’t simply reflect a band in limbo. Marked by the same slick production that made Only by the Night famous, the sound of this newest release displays signs of an inner struggle. These battle scars can be felt in the uneasiness of certain tracks.
“Mary” feels like an attempt at their classic southern sound heard through the ears of a California producer. “The Immortals” displays exciting signs of freshness, yet quickly falls back into their arena rock comfort zone. But simply writing off Come Around Sundown would be unfair. One cannot fault the Kings for wanting to appeal to the mainstream. Considering their past efforts, it would be hasty to abandon this once-promising band, because this record does show signs of life. “Pyro” is a beautifully-layered track with a dark, haunting appeal. “Pony Up” opens with a booming bass line which is then coupled with a dancy percussive riff, with pleasing results. As a whole, Come Around Sundown is not the Kings of Leon’s best effort but it does show signs of moving in the right direction.
What is certain is that these Southern rockers are no longer the rowdy boys they once were. As Followill sings, “Everything I cherish is either slowly dying or is gone.” This is a mourning album for what once was but can never be again. It is now time to move on, fans included. Even if this means short hair and a healthy dose of reverb.
Trial Track: “Pyro“