Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

As fans and former fans debate the merits of Tennessee quartet’s shift from boozed-up, barn-stomping anthems to the stadium-filling Southern rock equivalent of U2, Kings of Leon’s fifth studio album, Come Around Sundown, comes with a heavy load of baggage and expectation.

The band has tried to meet those mixed expectations by delivering a compilation of sounds from the Kings of Leon back catalogue. It might not please the fans they’ve lost, but it will please those on the fence, be adored by those that love them unconditionally, and will probably disinterest those fans who showed up for Sex on Fire.

The oh so wittily placed tune The End, opens the album in the stadium rock category, with eerie guitar sounds, thumping bass and Caleb Followill’s drawn out moans of “this could be the end”. It is followed by the record’s lead single Radioactive, which is certainly very “radio active”, but the attempt to go back to the band’s roots as southern gospel hicks with a children’s choir on backing vocals will have Bono beside himself that he didn’t write it first.

However, just when you think all hope is lost along comes Pyro; a slow burner of soft guitar, Nathan Followill’s crashing drums and sombre lyrics. Mary also nods towards the band’s southern roots, and Caleb’s raw vocals flashback to earlier days. If any part of you are in doubt that the band is still capable of these early days, Matthew Followill’s ripping guitar solo, in all its bluesy goodness, will put those thoughts to rest.

The next two tracks on the album, The Face, and The Immortals, are essentially filler tracks echoing the sound of Only By The Night, but the album really comes into its own with country-crossover Back Down South. If there ever was a track to make you have an awkward, yet pleasant moment with your cousin, it is this tune of simple acoustic guitar, scratchy vocals and harmonic fiddle.

Prior to the release, we were told this would be a beach-y effort, and quite suitably, Beach Side, is their attempt to deliver on that promise. The guitar is hypnotic and soothing, while the bass makes you slip further into a coma. Just be careful you don’t fall asleep, because if you do, you’ll miss the best tracks the album has to offer: No Money. The fastest track on the album, No Money, sounds closest to the Kings of old with distorted bass, broken guitar, quick drumming and incoherent vocals that you can’t help but attempt to sing along with.

Despite the stadium fillers, hipster clothing lines and backlash, they’re still fantastic musicians. Matthew and Caleb’s guitar’s intertwine beautifully on Birthday, while Pony Up is a real standout that sounds like it belongs on the band’s second record and shows the Kings getting their funk on with a groove-heavy bass line and a sliding, sweeping riff. Reminiscent of early efforts – when it was all about body parts and whiskey – Mi Amigo, has the quartet going south of the border. It’s by no means a fiesta but the instrumentals certainly have a Latino-meets-hick stance to them, whilst the lyrics take you down memory lane with the charming quip: “I’ve got a friend, who helps me to get up again; Showers me in boozes; Tells me I’ve got a big ole dick; And she wants my ass home.”

And finally the closer, Pickup Truck, with its driving bass line, siren-like guitar, and both beautifully written and sung lyrics, provides a very fine end to the album. It’s a raw ballad and Caleb shows more emotion in his gravel-rubbed voice than on the most recent albums.

Come Around Sundown is a good album; those hoping to hear Youth and Young Manhood and nothing else best not listen, but those avoiding it in case it sounds like Only By The Night should open their minds.

Perhaps they can beat the backlash after all.