Their last album ticked all the wrong boxes. The songs no longer distinguished themselves; listening to it now, there’s a definite feeling that, save for Caleb Followill’s distinctive voice, just about any other band with ideas of becoming the next U2 in their heads could have made it. It was fundamentally bland, with no song other than ‘Closer’ standing up to repeated listens.
‘Come Around Sundown’ succeeds where its predecessor failed. It varies styles quite well, for a start: there are hints of gospel music evident on ‘Mary’, whilst in the appropriately-named ‘Back Down South’, the Kings dip into country and western. Only slightly, though; no need to be alarmed. The result is one of the album highlights, its combination of slide guitar and fiddle providing the perfect backdrop.
‘Beach Side’ has a suitably laid-back feel to it; while ‘No Money’ finds Nathan Followill’s drums taking the lead, giving the up-tempo song some serious oomph. It’s the liveliest song on offer, proving that the quartet haven’t forgotten how to rock out like they used to.
There are ‘big’ songs here too: we get three in a row to open the album. ‘The End’ kicks things off in widescreen fashion, before the lead single, ‘Radioactive’, is unleashed, its chugging guitar and complex rhythms displaying the group’s improved musicianship. ‘Pyro’ rounds out the trio, its melancholy riff sounding a little like Los Campesinos!’ ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’, helping the song to build to a soaring climax, something they’ve become rather good at doing in recent years.
There isn’t a ‘Sex On Fire’ to be found anywhere (depending on where you stand this is either a good thing or completely terrible). True, the immediacy is still there, but we can’t see any singles off the album becoming as huge as ‘Only By The Night”s lead track did. ‘Come Around Sundown’ doesn’t need a millstone around its neck - that would be the last thing Kings of Leon want - we hope. Instead, what’s on offer is an entirely more striking set of songs, a mile away from the bloodless AOR of tracks like ‘Use Somebody’.
Some might say that this album’s predecessor was rushed. They didn’t wait too long to release this one either, but this time the speed with which the record was finished is a testament to how anxious they were to get these songs out into the world. Kings of Leon should be proud of ‘Come Around Sundown’, and in particular songs like ‘The Face’ and ‘Pony Up’, two of their best in a few years. They have an identity again, and, without a shadow of a doubt, have finally settled into their new stadium rock shoes. They might have been a few sizes too large last time out, but this time, they’re a perfect fit.
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