Kings Of Leon Come Around Sundown
With their last album, 2008’s Only By The Night, the family Leon moved away from their scratchy but inventive indie-rock roots and embraced the arena band approach, producing a slicker, more universal and radio-friendly album. As we all know, this gave them a massive hit – Only By The Night has sold over 6 million copies so far and has become the highest selling digital album in history. This kind of unbridled success, however, can have its downsides – especially when it comes to figuring out what to do next. Do you decide you can’t emulate such massive success and go all experimental a la Radiohead, or do you simply just follow the tried and tested formula? While it would be fun to see Kings Of Leon attempting a Kid A type re-invention, they have predictably gone for the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach with new album, Come Around Sundown.
While it does use the same sleek, polished and at times soulless production values of Only By The Night, Come Around Sundown differs in that it lacks any real stand-out crowd favourites in the style of ‘Sex On Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’. This is probably not that surprising, seeing as Caleb and co openly resent these style over substance songs and the popularity they have inspired – going as far as calling new Kings Of Leon fans ‘not cool’. In their place is an album of songs that, mostly, feel unfinished – as if they forcefully resisted the urge to include the killer bridges and infectious choruses for fear of creating even more monkeys on their backs. The effect is that Come Around Sundown becomes a plodding, meandering record with little focus amongst the slick, over-produced songs.
There are a few notable exceptions, the main hook and swaggering bass of ‘The Immortals’ was made for the arenas KoL now inhabit. ‘Back Down South’, the toe-tapping nostalgia trip to their Southern roots, is a welcome distraction while the guitars on ‘Pony Up’ border on funky. Mostly though, Come Around Sundown gets swallowed up by its over-reliance on sprawling, ‘cinematic’ tunes that lack character. Instead of being the attention grabber you would expect from a first single, ‘Radioactive’ stumbles along without direction while the rest come and go practically unnoticed. On the whole Come Around Sundown sounds like the album Kings Of Leon didn’t want to make, but felt forced to anyway. The title even screams of a band waiting for a new beginning – perhaps with this album out of the way they can start work on their new dawn.