CD Review: Come Around Sundown [2010]

Band: Kings of Leon
Label: RCA
Release: 10/2010

1. “The End” – B
2. “Radioactive” – B+
3. “Pyro” – C
4. “Mary” – C+
5. “The Face” – C
6. “The Immortals” – C
7. “Back Down South” – B
8. “Beach Side” – C+
9. “No Money” – B+
10. “Pony Up” – C-
11. “Birthday” – C-
12. “Mi Amigo” – C-
13. “Pickup Truck” – C+

Comments: Kings of Leon are a pretty polarizing bunch. For starters, they’ve never been “indie” — a terrible label to begin with, but even worse when people use it on a band that’s been signed with major label giant RCA since the get-go. Glad I’ve got that out of the way. They’ve been derided as “boring arena rock,” but they make “good music” compared to one Justin Beiber. Original fans seem (on the Internet, anyway) a dime a dozen, but have the Kings really compromised anything in the last six or seven years? Debut “Red Morning Light” was (still is) typical southern pop-rock. The next year’s Aha Shake Heartbreak had a bunch of the same kinds of songs — fun (oh no, not that!) well produced guitar-oriented anthems. Like I was trying to say, they never really came in “indie” and went downhill to “pop” from there. There was never that kind of transition. Somewhere along the line we are left with 2008’s Only by the Night. I liked Only by the Night. Not a whole lot, but the instrumentation was minimal, yet affective. When I first heard Kings of Leon being played on the radio — you know “Sex on Fire” (a bit more like their southern-y stuff of the past) and the huge “Use Somebody” which was (and still is) well overplayed but it undeniably has a catchy progression and pleasing guitar work. Two years have past and now Kings of Leon have brought us Come Around Sundown. Right from the get-go with “The End,” I’ve noticed they’ve haven’t changed. Surprise! It’s a pretty good song…incorporating the typical elements of post 2000s clean southern/garage pop-rock. “Radioactive,” the album’s lead single, is sing-a-long material…something like their arena friends U2 have been accustomed to making over the years. Keep in mind I don’t know much about U2, but it’s all about the “big” landscape of the song…potentially “bigger” than “Use Somebody.” If you want to go to sleep, listen to “Pyro.” Even though it has a sizable build-up, it’s boring. “Mary” is bland. Pretty awesome guitar solo, but otherwise bland. Looks like they really hit a poor streak because “The Face” is the same damn fodder! The thing that sort of keeps Kings of Leon somewhat sane in times of distress are their bridges and outros. Not saying they are good, but they can really make an awful song turn into something manageable. “The Immortals” is pretty average. It doesn’t suck, but it’s almost like they’ve done somewhat of the same variation for the past three songs. “Back Down South” seems like an honest descent into southern music. The noisiest song on the record goes to “No Money.” A little more of that direction couldn’t really hurt the band. OH YEAH IT COULD. So yeah, this album is pretty terrible, but it’s not that terrible. I’ve listened to some terrible records this year, but it does have a few trick ponies that act as saving graces.

Grade: C+ (77)

Thoughts on Kings of Leon

They haven’t moved to “arena rock.” They are that popular to fill up an arena like the Garden in Boston. A lot of their “fans” probably have only heard “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody,” two songs that have been played constantly on KISS 108. Allegations that the brother/cousin quartet are sell-outs don’t make a lot of sense. They’ve been signed to RCA since the release of their debut album in 2003. Their sound strikes a chord with the average  “pop” music listener because they play an incredibly mainstream sounding garage rock. Like their major label counterpart The Strokes, they can be easily be confused as “indie” because their rhythm is comfortably between soft rock and punk.