Widgets Magazine

Review: Kings of Leon’s ‘Come Around Sundown’

(Courtesy of Kings of Leon)

2009 was a great year for Kings of Leon. They were on the cover of every leading music publication, played every major music festival and were lauded as the Next Big Thing in the history of rock. 2010 may prove a bit more challenging. “Come Around Sundown,” their fifth album, has a reputation seven years in the making and, unfortunately, it does not live up to it. While there are strong follow-up tracks to “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire” on the new album, it is mostly peppered with mediocre attempts to widen the band’s musical scope. And although the band could anticipate a pat on the back for its courage to branch out and experiment, the whole album comes off as an effort poorly achieved.

“The End” comes at the beginning. Starting off with a sparse drum and bass line, the song catches on with a distorted tremolo guitar and Caleb Followill’s wonderfully hoarse voice. With a mid-tempo rhythm and little, if any, feeling embedded in the vocals, the track feels like a warm-up for the typical AOR (album-oriented rock) that Kings of Leon are known and loved for. Next!

The swift tremolo guitars on “Radioactive” take off the second the track comes on, and it is impossible to ignore the energy mounting in them. The typical Kings of Leon power song, and the most obvious choice for first single, the track features high-speed guitar lines and an incredibly powerful bass courtesy of Jared Followill. Caleb Followill’s hoarse wailing takes on a whole new aspect of seething emotion that permeates the listener and carries the song to fist-pumping heights. “Radioactive” is hands down the gem of this album.

Then, a few songs in, comes the ultimate cliché: “Mary.” It sounds like a cross between “Oh! Darling” by The Beatles and an Aerosmith tune. There’s entirely too much sugary cooing going on in the background for this track to be taken seriously. A larger-than-life guitar solo and some misplaced whoops by Caleb Followill bring the whole distasteful affair to an end.

Thankfully, “The Face” comes on and helps remind the listener why Kings of Leon rocked the past two years since their mainstream breakthrough. A beautiful song with moving lyrics about home (Tennessee for KOL), the track feels more like a ballad, with its slowly reverberating guitar riffs and cymbal-heavy drum lines, than any other song off the album. What makes it so enjoyable is that it sounds honest: the band is not trying to be groundbreaking, but to play the music it plays best.

The theme of home is further fleshed out in “Back Down South,” a country ballad if there ever was one. It starts off with a fiddle, what sounds like slide guitar but probably isn’t and Caleb Followill’s voice accessorized with a southern drawl. While the music is unoriginal, the song is not displeasing. On the other hand, “Beach Side,” another Americana-influenced track, is difficult to listen to. Sharp drums, twangy guitar and pleading vocals add up to a musically perplexing track that sounds like pop slash rockabilly slash blues.

A post-worldwide fame album can’t be easy to write. Once a band has lived on the road for more than a year, it’s understandable that its roots play a big part in its ensuing record. In fact, country influences are not the problem of this album – they are the strength. The weakness of the album comes in the layering of its sound with mediocre pop. Thankfully, “Pickup Truck,” the final track, features none of this. As a piano chimes away in the background, bleary guitars in the verses fizzle out, and the drumming dies softly away. Let’s hope Kings of Leon do neither.

  • Anders Cold

    Just a quick comment. AOR is not “arena-rock”. AOR = album-oriented rock.

  • Jared

    It sounds like this reviewer didn’t even know who the Kings were until “Use Somebody” broke out. I think the fans from early on will find many things to like about this album. I think it was a gift from the boys to those of us waiting for the “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” crowds to subside.

  • Stephanie

    I totally love the new album. Yes, it is very different from their earlier albums (which are all amazing in their own unique way). If a band put out the same sound in every single song in every single album, then doesn’t that just get old? Just because a band grows and matures and tries new sounds and genres doesn’t mean they have sold out or took a victory lap. KINGS OF LEON——LOVING THE NEW ALBUM AND I ADORE THE HONESTY IN COME AROUND SUNDOWN.

  • Alex

    I agree with Jared’s comment. This reviewer has never heard any of the first three albums. And if they have, they didn’t give them enough of a listen.

  • kol

    kings of leon are pretty bad

  • liam

    terrible review. radioactive as the best song on the album? excuse me?

    i dont know about others but im glad there isnt a sex on fire or use somebody on this album. KOL are mainstream enough as it is

    overall come around sundown is an improvement on only by the night, but still lacks the raw edge which made because of the times so epic

  • Wonder

    The writing in these type situations, always seem the same. History of a band is important, not pretend or manufactured history. Get to know the subject well before writing another boring, nothing new review. Unfortunately, this one comes down to another case of blah blah blah. I agree, reviewer doesn’t really know the band. And how many times must we see tears rolling down cheeks when crying about another band that isn’t as good as it was, or raw etc. Are bands never to venture out and try different styles, and simply improve. Lets not forget the tedious and over used word polish that many think is evil. It’s part of the bloody process. Get over it and friggin’ enjoy music!!!!