Album Review

Kings of Leon "Come Around Sundown"

Chad W. Lutz
When I think of Kings of Leon, I think about a certain sweltering Friday night back in June when the four Followill boys from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee played to a crowd of over 80,000. There was so much energy you could almost taste it in the air (although that might have been the synesthesia playing tricks on me). If I were to sum the entire experience up with one word, energy would be it. From beginning to end they blew the lid off Bonnaroo; most people I’ve talked to say it was their favorite show (that and The Dark Side of the Moon).

Well, a little over four months later, on October 15th, the Bourbon drinking wild boys from the Bible belt released their fifth studio album. Recorded in New York’s Avatar Studios, Come Around Sundown spans just shy of an hour (52:39) and features fourteen tracks that appear to be an attempt at getting back to their roots. But with the success of their last album Only by The Night (2008), many critics are wondering if the sundown they’re referring to is the one setting on their short career.

In their October 19th review of the album, Rolling Stone compared the Kings of Leon to U2 (yikes!). While I don’t really agree with the comparison and actually think the Kings and U2 sound basically nothing alike, except for maybe one or two tracks, I will agree with their summary of the album saying, “It’s just a glimpse of a band with its foot on the accelerator.” After listening to all of the album’s tracks, you can definitely tell this band is taking their sound wherever they please, and there is no looking back.

The album opens with the drum heavy “The End” (4:24) that instantly flies into Caleb’s signature dissonant sound. Moments later, as his voice breaks through and the bass begins to flow, you know it’s none other than the Kings of Leon infiltrating your sound system, and off the album flies.

At first, I wasn’t very receptive of the album. There were no major hooks, no crying vocals and eerie, dissonant guitar. No pulsing bridges with bone-chilling lyrics that make you get up and move whether or not you even want to. With only a few bright spots on the album it has me wondering if this really is the same band I saw half out of my mind in the towering Tennessee mid-summer heat.

All of the songs are relatively the same length (around 3-5 minutes) with the longest topping out at 5:14 (“Celebration”). Most of the songs carry the signature Kings sound. Caleb’s lyrics pierce. The drums are erratic, emphatic. It’s a different sound for the Kings of Leon, infusing more traditional movements and time signatures while blending their own brand of music.

The first single off the album, “Radioactive” (3:26), features a backing gospel choir that gives so much power to the already potent sound of Followill’s croon. “Just drink the water where you came from,” urges Caleb in the songs lyrics. It sounds like they did on this album. The entire track listing from beginning to end has a much more distinct country sound than any of their other previous releases. But the message is still the same: “Start a riot!” While this might not be the Kings at their best, it’s definitely the Kings doing what they do best.