Kings Of Leon are a band that you either love or hate. Reviews of their 2008 album ‘Only By The Night’ were drastically diverse, some admired it while others abhorred it. As a band that released soft southern rock-esque albums early in their career, ‘Only By The Night’ showed that they were no longer interested playing in that genre, and so marked their revolution into a mainstream, radio-friendly band. It wasn’t a necessarily good move, with lifted single ‘Use Somebody’ being a song that a far less talented band could have wrote.
‘Come Around Sundown’ is in some ways a revisiting of their old style. Lead single ‘Radioactive’ has a garage rock sound, not unlike many of the other tracks. It’s a well-played move to release the song as a single with its prominent bass-line, which is by now a Kings Of Leon trademark, an impressive chorus and some good vocal harmonies. The band sound tighter than ever before, more focused, and it makes you think that maybe they are finally coming back to their roots after their burst into super-stardom.
The same can’t be said of the entire album though. Caleb Followill‘s voice can at times be easy to tolerate, but too often his vocals become ugly and stagnant to listen to. The chorus on ‘Pyro’ eradicates any sincerity that the otherwise enjoyable song would have delivered, with Caleb‘s voice sounding too strained. Likewise, ‘Mary’ features the usual voice-break at times that we all know Caleb has used in the past. There’s something self-conscious about his vocals, and this can at times alienate the listener.
Less alienating is the music itself, which has a raw feel to it. This makes a nice change compared to their over-produced albums of before. There are chugging guitar solos that flow rather than dictate, and a great sense of groove and rhythm between percussion and bass on the faster tracks that show how much fun the Followill boys were having during the album’s making. They’re at their strongest when melody takes control, ‘Beach Side’ sounds like a wonderful tribute to driving beside a sunny beach, remaining incredibly luxuriant throughout without the need to break down into any predictable chorus. It’s a highlight of the album. If ‘Sundown’ had remained in this key throughout, perhaps the album would have been much stronger and more refreshing.
There’s certainly a more Southern feel to this album than the Kings Of Leon of recent years, and therefore fans of their older material may appreciate this. ‘Mi Amigo’ has a swagger to it and also uses a country-tinged guitar that returns the Followill clan to their roots. Album closer ‘Pickup Truck’ is gentle, with occasional bursts at just the right times. What develops is an album with an arguably stronger second half; a rare occurrence in mainstream music. Kings Of Leon could have been onto something superb here, if only they had avoided placing a few average tracks on the album. As it stands, the album may drain the listener before the final track runs through its course. This is a pity, as ‘Come Around Sundown’ shines brightest in its final few moments.
Written by Rhys Milsom