Review: Kings of Leon’s ‘Come Around Sundown’ October 8, 2010 7 Comments Share tweet Maria Del Carmen Barrios By: Maria Del Carmen Barrios (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. Kings of Leon music 2010-10-08 Maria Del Carmen Barrios October 8, 2010 7 Comments Share tweet Subscribe Click here to subscribe to our daily newsletter of top headlines.