by Paul Falardeau (Arts & Life Editor)
This is probably a useless review. If people decide to read it, it will be unlikely to have any affect on whether they go out and buy the album in question. This fate doesn’t stem from the fact that people don’t read newspapers (read: anything) or the fact that reviews, after a point, become a useless cyst on the artistic community. No, the reality is that this is a review of one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, The Kings of Leon’s new disc, Come Around Sundown, and the reality is that most readers will have already decided whether or not to pick up this new record.
Now, for the record, I’m not a hater, but neither am I in love with the Kings. Caleb Followill has always seemed to me to be a poor-man’s Jim James and, overall, The Kings of Leon seem to be the indie rock world’s version of Nickelback. Don’t take that the wrong way. The Followill’s are certainly more talented and less annoying (and gross), but they seem to fill that niche within any genre or style of “the band that is OK, but more popular than they should be and without the same talent level as their less-accomplished chums.” OK maybe a more flattering comparison is to U2: same shoe, different foot.
Caleb Followill has expressed, prior to the album’s release, that he feels anxious about this very topic. Well, too late to step out of the spotlight, Caleb. The good news is that the music sounds leaps and bounds above what it could have been if the Followill’s had decided to ride the crest of that new-found fame. Score one for anxiety.
Whereas the smash hit, Only By the Night was a dull affair of lolling, uninventive tracks that (surprise, surprise) wooed the hearts of millions of musical plebs, the Kings’ offerings on Sundown are refreshingly dissimilar. Unlike its snore-fest of a predecessor, this album zigs and zags with enough interesting material to warrant repeat listens. “Mary” lugs in Black Keys and Beach Boys in even portions, and “The Immortals” shrugs off a dopey name by building an energetic bass line into sonic bubble. The album never feels too segmented though; there is always the unifying Kings of Leon sound in place, and the play order places slow burners and foot-stompers across the board.
The Kings of Leon seem to be using Come Around Sundown to springboard some new sounds, but there is also a big feeling of making the old new again. Noted Tennesseans, these boys are clearly harping at their roots, for example in “Back Down South,” the unimaginatively-titled track that comes loaded with violin and ample pickin’ and enough pining for the homeland to wonder if the Followill’s might not be looking for their dogs at the bottom of a beer sometime soon.
Come Around Sundown, the Kings of Leon’s fifth studio effort, seems, nonetheless, like a sophomore piece, and such is the fate of sophomore albums and sudden fame. It seems like the Followill’s have suddenly found themselves trying to please a lot of different parties. The result, and the flipside to the album’s diversity, is that it seems to run on a bit too long (almost fifty minutes) to keep you listening all the way.
Despite a few complaints, it seems like “America’s U2” is taking the high road and has managed to avoid the sudden fame slump by putting out an album that challenges the sound that made them famous. Worth a listen for those who weren’t previously interested and worth buying for those who didn’t need to read this review to do so.