Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown
Review by Jack Foley
YOU could argue that it’s a measure of Kings of Leon’s success and confidence right now that they’d even dare to start an album with a track called The End – the type of towering offering that would mark the finale of most lesser ambitioned LPs.
But Kings of Leon are on a roll right now, buoyed by the success of last album Only By The Night, they appear intent on underlining their position as one of the world’s biggest bands. And they do so emphatically.
Come Around Sundown, their fifth studio album, is an epic in every sense of the word, packed with great songs that both embody the now familiar trademark sound, while expanding the format into ever ambitious areas.
The End, for instance, strikes a fine balance between those moody vocals of Caleb Followill and the mid-tempo style of tracks like Revelry, while forcing you to sit up and take notice courtesy of its striking central guitar riff – a siren like call to break your heart. It then neatly strips things back down to a solitary piano chord come the finale, playfully suggesting the end has arrived prematurely.
But then they hit you with the rollicking riffs of lead single Radioactive, a stirring blend of brooding vocals, lively choruses and fantastic guitar work that really gets you excited. Echoed wails, rapid-fire riff-making, it’s all here… and it’s fantastic.
A couple of songs on and Mary hits you with blistering guitar solos, and an almost retro rock ‘n’ roll groove that’s given added impetus by the background harmonising. It’s a lovelorn tale of unrequited love, of waiting, that charms the pants off you.
But then so much of the album finds Caleb in a state of insecurity and uncertainty… with the bluegrass soaked Back Down South a classic case in point and another throwback to some of their earlier material.
It’s a beautifully composed record and one of the album’s easiest highlights, shot through with some great guitar work (some of it slide), belated hand-clap beats and gospel backing and another distinct, mournful vocal from Caleb that slowly turns celebratory.
What’s more, it’s nicely contrasted by the fire and fury of No Money, the band’s riposte to the current economic climate, that finds Caleb marrying anger with impoverished pleading (“give me something I can believe in”/”can’t you see me walking along, I’ve been down to the horns of Babylon”). The guitars, again, are epic, even stadium-sized, befitting the band’s new status as world conquerors.
Pony Up drops an edgy opening guitar riff and some funky percussion, before dropping another of the LP’s highlights, while Mi Amigo is a playful examination of a friend who may or may not be the best person in the world, complete with stop-start riffs and an Eddie Vedder inspired vocal.
Final offering Pickup Truck, meanwhile, ends things on a brilliantly sombre note, offering another tale of romantic disappointment that tugs at the heart strings lyrically and instrumentally: it’s low-key guitar riffs and sparse synth arrangements providing a perfect accompaniment for the crestfallen lyrics. It’s a great book-end to album opener, The End.
Some have bemoaned Kings of Leon for accepting their newfound – and hard earned – mainstream status a little too easily with Come Around Sundown. But then why shouldn’t they? If their music is this good, then we should bask in that comfort zone and celebrate the sound of a band that are clearly on top of the world right now.
Come Around Sundown is a wonderful return from them that deservedly looks set to become one of the year’s biggest sellers.
Download picks: The End, Radioactive, Mary, Back Down South, Pony Up, Pickup Truck