Kings of Leon: Come Around Sundown

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Posted October 30, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Tennessee heroes stretch beyond their Southern hospitality to offer up more arena-rock, tranquil rock

History changed almost overnight when Kings of Leon made their leap from small town heroes to stadium drawing cards after 2009’s “Use Somebody” soared its way unto the pop charts. The single’s success elevated the sales of their fourth record Only By the Night beyond predictions and gave the Folowill brothers the permission to headline some of the world’s largest stages (Glastonbury, Lollapalozza, Bonnaroo, Leeds, Austin City Limits) while also inheriting the covetous Grammy for Record of the Year. Depending on who you ask, Only By the Night could be seen as the Kings’ best record so far. Others, particularly critics in the US, will pan the album for a number of reasons. Those who can remember their earlier garage-rock  albums felt they were more adventerous, bold and interesting. Still, with much success comes great responsibility and the Kings had to find some way to top their previous ascent to the top.

Traveling to New York for a change of pace after gaining some ironic inspiration, according to recent interviews, from New York outfit LCD Soundsystem, the Kings of Leon decides to cut a type of record that appropriately matches the title description. Come Around Sundown feels like a Southern rock lounger with the possibilities of something more universal. That’s because much the melodies this time around tend to highlight the sunny side of “Use Somebody” and has the type of decadence – even with its calming elements – to fill up a large arena with euphoric escapism. “The End,” guided by throbbing bass plunks, occasional guitar sirens and Caleb Folowill’s whiskey-soaked vocals while borrowing the energies of “Use Somebody,” rides like a delicate U2 offering. The offerings in the front are good, particularly the spiritual anthem “Radioactive,” “Pyro” and the doo-wop rock of “Mary,” but what is quite surprising is how the latter presentations on Sundown are just as strong, if not better. “The Face” interweaves the best of the Police into Bruce Springsteen into one slow power ballad. “The Immortals” plays even more with The Police rhythms throughout the verses, but evens out with Kings of Leon’s Southern strumming on the chorus. “Birthday” has one of those organic melodies that blend Bobby Womack soul with the King’s early garage-rock style. The greatest of them all: “Pickup Truck,” attached to the album’s tail end, is as good as anything else that preceded it. Caleb’s voice, one step shy from emotional lamenting, surrounds a highly acoustic adventure with Matthew Folowill’s guitar lines sounding like back-up singers.

Certainly the King’s trip to New York didn’t shake off their Southern roots, witnessed strongly on the country-tinged “Back Down South” and Lynard Skynard-esque “Mi Amigo.” But the Kings are only doing what is necessary in order to keep their momentum glowing. After a few albums peddling on comparisons of an indie band searching for a break (remember KOL signed to a major label for their debut), it seems that their song writing is maturing, their melodies are getting stronger and even with a risk or two here and there, they’ve found refuge in their U2 production sonics, all the way down to the big room echoes. Even with all the success behind their previous record, Sundown stands as a major improvement.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 15 October 2010
  • Label: RCA
  • Producers: Angelo Petraglia and Jacquire King
  • Track Favs: Pickup Truck, The Face,  Radioactive, The End, Mary

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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