Kings of Leon Come Around Sundown(Sony) Buy it from Insound
Only By the Night was the album that put Kings of Leon in a bind, albeit one that many bands would love to find themselves in. Having ascended to – gasp – mainstream popularity, the band members recoiled from their fame, deeming their hit song which was the catalyst of their commercial success to be “a piece of shit” and describing their fanbase as “not fucking cool.” Some of us wanted to tell Caleb to shut-up. Your biggest problem is you have too many fans? Sold too many records? Please. That’s why it’s confusing then that – at least on first listen – Come Around Sundown sounds as brash and stadium friendly as their previous effort.
However after a couple of spins, one finds that underneath the epic swagger of the melodies, there’s something weary at the core of this record. These songs – recorded in a New York studio – pine for a home life back down South. They yearn for escape. In the slow-burning The Face, Caleb sings to a girl, “If you give up New York I’ll give you Tennessee/The only place to be.” The record sounds like a band exhausted by music, fame and themselves. But in some ironic way, it’s the understandable fatigue that invests the tunes with a looseness and sincerity which was missing from last year’s wildly successful – but somewhat calculated – fourth album.
But even if they’re tired, these four family rockers still know how to churn out catchy tunes with Caleb’s scratchy vocals and the band’s angsty melodies still present in spades. While a somewhat by-the-numbers first single, Radioactive features bracing guitar which wraps itself around an incredibly infectious hook. Pony Up features a bouncy bass line that echoes earlier Kings of Leon records and with its playful vibe, Birthday is one of the band’s sexier, more effortless numbers.
The track listing still contains a fistful of ballad-like rockers. Songs like The Immortals and Pyro sound like typical Kings of Leon fare: slices of Southern-fried yearning which burn and kick in their choruses. The funky and chugging guitar of Mi Amigo ambles along perfectly and while Caleb lays the sleaze on thick in the album’s closer, Pickup Truck, with the line “Pour yourself on me/And you know I’m the one you won’t forget,” the song still smolders with bittersweetness.
Perhaps the heart of this album lies with a track like Back Down South, a twangy but enjoyable Nashville ode to drinking beer and living the simple life. The song, however, masks the band’s dilemma: they can’t decide whether they truly want to trade in New York for Tennessee. Therein lays the record’s most gaping flaw. While enjoyable and familiar, this set of songs reflects a band who knows what music they don’t want to be making but haven’t – at least, not yet – determined what it is they want to be defined by instead.20 October, 2010 - 21:24 — Cara Nash