Was it a Samson-like moment when the beards and flowing locks got chopped? Did it come with the release of lyrically abysmal pub favourite ‘Sex On Fire’? Or was it just the natural sting from international success? The point where Kings of Leon morphed from quirky, redneck hopefuls into rock-lite stadium dinosaurs is yours to debate but for fans still believing they could go back to being the band they once were,Come Around Sundown is a Tennessee-sized nail in the coffin.
Like a compilation of future dad-rock favourites the first opening seconds act as an MOR/AOR dream (read: nightmare) and the band sound at turns pained or simply going through the motions. Missing the boat for ‘downbeat’ and hitting ‘snorefest’ instead, songs like ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Back Down South’ are an aural anticlimax. ‘Birthday’ tries to resurrect their old guitar renderings but is a hollow shell in comparison to old favourites like ‘Red Morning Light’ or ‘California Waiting’ while ‘Mary’ is possibly the worst song the band has recorded (if not the worst song ever). To close with ‘Pickup Truck’ is an apt choice – it is the sound of a once vibrant band on autopilot. Caleb Followill says this album has much in common with their debut but Come Around Sundown is not a distant relative of Youth and Young Manhood but more like an alien entity.
It isn’t a terribly bad album exactly; in fact it’ll fit in nicely if your record collection involves Journey, U2 and James Taylor and if overproduction doesn’t irk you. Of course there’s an audience out there who’ll lap this up and who’ll gladly pay big bucks when they visit the O2 yet again but should it really be this half arsed? Can’t they at least pretend they tried? Apparently not. Sure they sell out stadiums, date beautiful bimbos and, if we are to believe Groove Armada, charter their own toilets at festivals, but what they don’t have is anything special. To quote the opening track ‘this could be the end’ and if this album does ring the death knell for KOL it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Time is ticking to grow those beards back boys.