Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown

The Southern boys are back with their latest album; but with reviews already coming back negative, should they start thinking about their next step?

It's taken me a while to review this album. Mainly because when I first listened to it a few weeks ago, I thought it was abysmal and that maybe it was a grower. Now, after listening to it a few times and allowing it to grow I can safely say it's pretty shit.

My main issue with Kings of Leon is that, without bragging, I was there at the beginning. When I first got their EP Holy Roller Novocaine about 7 years ago or so (with tracks arguably better on that than on their debut album), I thought I had found the perfect mix of rock, country and blues. Not only that, but the band looked fucking cool. Now a lot of people have said they have sold out and my main issue with that is that, they were never really underground, Youth & Young Manhood got a LOT of TV advertisements which I always feel is a sign of selling out, and this was before they even had that much of a cult following. However, everything about that first album was incredible, the look, the sound, the feel, the lyrics, everything. Unfortunately as time has advanced, their original sound has been diluted to the point where it stands up unrecognisable to the edgy, hip band they used to be.

I'd also argue that a lot of these reviewers don't know what they are talking about. Stuff I've read says they have finally released a stadium album, one reviewer even suggesting Bono will be giving them a call soon. What these idiots don't bother to research is that Kings of Leon toured with U2 back in 2005, they were already playing sell-out stadiums just after Aha Shake Heartbreak. It was after this that the band decided they'd start writing stadium filler songs for that more epic sound, which was the real beginning of their self-destruction. Therefore, you could even blame the crapness of Kings of Leon now on Bono if you so wished, and that the result was Because Of The Times. Reverb, delay, echo, big choruses - all the classic subtleties of stadium rock. However, at least with each album there has been a few tracks that I liked. I mean, let's be honest, Aha Shake Heartbreak wasn't that bad, it was already pointing towards a wish to shake off their indie image and become mainstream but it was still good. I suppose it's a shame that by this point they look like they've just stepped out of River Island rather than a blues bar, but I guess they have to pretty themselves up a bit, even if it means losing their cool image that the boys liked. At least the music will stay the same? If only.

I could perhaps deal with Because Of The Times because it might have sounded less rough, but it felt like they were still hanging on to this whole wish to still be dirty rockers with some swagger. Once again, instead of an entire album I like, the amount of songs I enjoy dwindle with each album. By the time Only By The Night comes around, and namely Sex On Fire, I can't really even listen to it, it's like they have given up. Indeed Caleb makes it clear he always hated Sex On Fire. In fact, he is renowned for being like a sulky teenager and I would imagine that he consciously knows that he's lost his cool, young crowd to the family-friendly stadium sound - a rock gig the whole gang can enjoy and it's 'cool' still right? Well, no. People forget that Kings of Leon never took off in the States like they did here, and really they are arguably more famous here than anywhere in the world and perhaps it's this wish to be accepted that drives these radio friendly unit shifters.

So we come to Come Around Sundown, an album that was promised to be 'dirtier' and 'grungier' than previous ones, once again to make sure their original fanbase holding out hope will still buy their album and that their new crowd will think they are getting something edgier than normal. But this is rock that 13 year old girls listen to and I'm sorry, but if you like this album go into your sister's room, find a pretty dress and dance around in front of a poster of Caleb because you're no longer a man. Reviewers use words such as 'soft', 'emotive', 'shimmering', 'moody' but it's all just a wanky way of saying something is shit, without saying it's shit.

If you haven't got the album, let's start by saying it begins with 'The End' and to be fair, it's something that could have easily been on the last album. It's a swirly, slow song with Editors style fast picking in the background that lends it a bit of edge it so obviously needed - "I ain't got a home" Caleb sings - I doubt it, you've sold a million albums. I feel so heartbroken for his rock and roll lifestyle and how hard it must be to deal with fame. Get over yourself you bloody idiot.

Next up is single 'Radioactive' - if anyone has seen the video then you'll know it is the biggest piece of egotistical crap I've ever seen. Youtube it, but they are playing with a group of black kids as if they are one with the 'people' or on Comic Relief and then the kids act like a chorus line by clapping along with it. Wank. I don't mind the verses on this so much though, it's only when it launches into that singalong chorus that you can feel they're sitting there writing it going - "Yeah ok, so when we hit into it, we want big BOOOOM like fireworks on the stage and WHOOOSH lights sweeping everywhere and then, you know, it's REALLY LOUD and .... and ... let's have a chorus line on the stage! Yeah! Big bright white lights on us all! Then BAM BAM BAM lights flickering everywhere as the song ends." - The record exec sits back - 'It's a hit. I love it. Now let's put some happy black singing kids in the video.' 'That's the dealbreaker.'

A lot of people have come back to me saying Pyro is one of the more exceptional tracks on the album. It's not. It's only because it's got a memorable chorus, much like the rest of the album it's full of oooh's and aaaaaah's, lazy songwriting if ever I've seen it. You compare this to even Because Of The Times and you can already see a noticeable difference in songwriting. It's like they haven't even bothered to try.

Next track Mary might as well sit next to some crap mid-90's average rock band that wouldn't even be bothering the top ten. The wanky solo in the middle doesn't help either and the song is nothing but a bore to listen to - it's just been so over-produced and slick that I can't believe Angelo Petraglia hasn't put a stop to it already unless he's using them as an excuse to do as much production experimenting as possible. It doesn't let up with it's cringe-worthy, slack playing in The Face that is immediately forgettable and hardly worth mentioning.

The Immortals once again kicks in with big huge choruses which could have easily been any other track on the album, it's ridiculous. Next track Back Down South was a bit of a surprise, the reason being is that you can see it at a country gig and it's less forced and more natural feel makes it more authentic. I wouldn't mind if Kings of Leon went more in this direction with some bottleneck guitar, subtle drumming, soft harmonies and indeed went 'back down south' because recording in New York is clearly doing them no favours in terms of respect. Beach Side is a fitting accompaniment to the holiday brochure album cover but again there's no recognisable hook, nothing to distinguish it and set it apart from the rest of the album which is a shame because I think with a bit more work, this song could have worked out quite well.

No Money at least is a bit faster than the rest of the tracks but once again follows their formula of opening riff, turn instruments down a bit for the singing, then turn them back up for the chorus with some oohs and ahhhs and at end the song drive the point (or riff) home. Pony Up makes me yawn with a sound like it has been written by a Kings Of Leon wannabe band rather than the authentic thing, what the hell is that guitar riff anyway? It's awful. Birthday takes it one step further by having some of the worst lyrics ever that I can't even bring myself to write here and it sounds like an afterthought song, just more filler between what they will release as singles.

Mi Amigo is a complete joke and you could probably fall asleep listening to this song. Who is actually listening to this stuff anymore? Maybe final song Pick-up Truck can make up for it perhaps? No. It's a boring, lazy, over-produced piece of shit that can pick-up and piss off as far as I'm concerned. As soon as the album finished I quickly ran through my iPod and made a playlist of my old favourite Kings tracks and calmed back down, maybe they'll return to their old best? Well, even if they don't at least they left some good tracks before they went completely up their own arses.

Maybe if Caleb is so ungrateful of all his fame, he'd either leave Kings of Leon to do something else, or just kill himself. Pity he couldn't have done it a bit earlier on in either case. If anything, at least this album can be a test if someone is cool or not.

'Did you like Kings Of Leon's Come Around Sundown?'
'Yeah I loved it!'
'See ya.'

Come Around Sundown? Just don't come around here.

Rating: 3/10

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