Tag Archives: Pyro

Kings of Leon ‘Come Around Sundown’ – Review

20 Oct

There is a moment when you realize a band have become part of the furniture, they are no longer essential or awe-inspiring – a moment when you start to describe them as dependable, a moment when you realize they haven’t surprised you in a while and they probably wont again. You still love them but it’s a different kind of love. A moment that you reach in any long-term relationship, whether it’s one with a woman or one with a band. With Muse it was their last album, Oasis it was ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’, R.E.M it was ‘Around The Sun’ etc. None of these albums are bad, but it’s the point when the band settled into their groove and didn’t look like wanting to change. With Kings of Leon ‘Come Around Sundown’ is that moment for them.

In many ways ‘Only By The Night’ sold less like an album and more like a must have household accessory – everyone had to have one, just to keep up with the neighbours. I really liked that record and I absolutely disagree with anyone that said the band sold out, It really wasn’t a huge departure for the band and I believe them when they say they aren’t too bothered about sales. And I’m sorry but why do you stop liking a band just because they become massive? Ok, so I was a little uncomfortable with my Mum knowing the words to ‘Sex On Fire’ and I didn’t much like hearing the band’s songs being used on X Factor, but that was simply a reflection of how great the tunes were and how suited the band are to mass appeal. There was undeniably a backlash though and I know a lot of people are ready to slate this album before they’ve even heard a note. The band know this as well and they have been unusually cagey and defensive in interviews surrounding the release.

First signs were good if not great. ‘Radioactive’ has that instant, sing along vibe that ensures it is already being used over match of the day highlights. It certainly isn’t the best thing the band have ever done, it’s a very inoffensive and middle of the road kind of rocker. It gave an indication that the album would see the band employing gospel choirs and epic riffs but these were ultimately red herrings as this is actually the group’s most laid back and simple album yet. ‘Beach Side’ was originally a B-Side (hence the name) because the group originally thought that it was too basic to appear on the album, but it’s a really nice song with some shimmery guitars and a nice organ sound. The second half of the album in particular is very sweet and enjoyable which slightly hides the fact that it actually isn’t that impressive, none of the songs towards the end of the album particularly stand out but it’s a nice listen. At the end of the day Kings of Leon albums have always had their fair share of filler, it’s something we’ve come to expect.

The album’s first half is where we expect the hits to be, but they never really come. ‘Radioactive’ is decent but it was never going to be as big as ‘Sex on Fire’, ‘Pyro’ sounds like a retake of ‘Use Somebody’ without the same emotional punch and anthemic chorus and ‘The End’ sounds like ‘Closer’ but less impressive. Of the early tracks ‘Mary’ is the only one to really knock you out, it’s the kind of power pop stunner that Phil Spector may have produced, it is something genuinely new for the band. ‘Back Down South’ is also quite impressive although it’s country tone sounds a little bit confused, as if the band were trying to revisit their roots but got a bit lost on the way.

It’s hard to work out the album’s niche – it isn’t as edgy as ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ it isn’t as indie as ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’, it isn’t as dark as ‘Because of the Times’ and it isn’t as classy as ‘Only By The Night’. In some ways it takes elements from all of the above and waters them down into an easy listening brew. One thing that really lets it down is the lack of a great rock song, every other KOL album has had at least two but ‘Come Around Sundown’ has none – the band don’t even attempt one, only ‘No Money’ picks up the pace but this is hardly brilliant.

‘Come Around Sundown’ is the sound of a band Sunday driving, despite all the pre-release talk there aren’t any brave new directions explored here and this isn’t a return to their country-rock roots. Most of these songs are mid-tempo chuggers that sound good on a car stereo but they don’t get the pulse racing and they don’t hold up to close inspection either. There is nothing with the tension of ‘Crawl’ or ‘Black Thumbnail’, nothing with the spirit of ‘Red Morning Light’, nothing as moving as ‘Cold Desert’ and nothing as anthemic as ‘Sex on Fire’ or ‘Use Somebody’. Everyone I know seems to have a different favourite KOL album but I am pretty certain that this wouldn’t  be anyones. It isn’t that they have gone backwards, it’s just that they haven’t moved forward at all – actually they seem to be going sideways. Kings of Leon are nearly a middle-aged band and unless they do something to spice things up soon they could find this romance going a bit stale.