Kings reach creative limbo

By Naude Breet

Kings of Leon are following up their success of Only_By_The_Night with their 5th studio album, titled Come Around Sundown. It has been almost exactly three years to the day since their last album was released and in that amount of time they have reached massive highs on the international stage, wining multiple awards and touring endlessly. The Kings have cemented their place along with The Strokes as one of the most important bands of the past decade. So surely there would be unprecedented pressure on the four Followills to make an album as monetarily successful, among other things, as OBTN. But that is actually the least evident of the issues with this album.

The opening track is titled The End, which one would hope to dismiss the irony of, seeing as the song its self is relatively impressive. The song contains an unnatural (for the Kings of Leon) amount of atmospherics. Which again appear on the song The Immortals Perhaps this is as much of an indication of how far they have come, as the producer and instrumental atmospherics couple to produce an epic chorus in both tracks that so contrasts the lovable lo-fi sincerity of Youth and Young Manhood, i.e. Red Morning Light; Genius. 

They kings have matured to what one could interpret as being quite stable gents on the new album, so evident on a song like Pyro: Caleb’s emotional interpretation of the suicidal leader at the Waco massacre. Now while the song is earnest, one has to admit that such a resource material for song writing differs substantially to the whiskey-swigging, cocaine, whores, depression, failed relationships and anger that the first 3 albums were based on. Only by the night, to a much lesser extent but there was still hope for old fans that such maturity was not a permanent thing in the career of the Kings.

Again the maturity reappears on The Immortals, Caleb singing about more understandable and fatherly things like not forgetting to love Fore you’re gone. A little too much of a 180 degree turn from the first albums, lyrically, for any long time fan to really believe they’re being serious. And it’s not the only time this happens, the entire song No Money contains the only f-word of the whole album as though they needed to prove something, has overly aggressive cuts on the guitars and for the first time ever seems to be rather a forced effort from the band at making a proper rock song. Alas it is a little too forgettable a non-single from the album for the Kings of Leon.

The same is true with tracks Beach Side and Pony Up, instrumentally not very different from their previous work on Only by the night but more forgettable. It is a shame really, that such new songs fail to compare to the non-singles from their previous albums i.e.: Soft and Ragoo.

That was the beauty of the Kings of Leon, that even the songs that were supposedly filling space on their albums were still amazing tracks and a track like Milk highlighted their versatility in doing so but unfortunately the latest album seems to contrast its self almost as much with it’s varying degrees of both awesome songs such as the hootenanny joy of Mary and the catchiness of Birthday with the rather slack efforts of Beach Side; Pony Up and No Money.

There are good songs in the album too though that seem to fall in the middle of the scale, such as The Face and the true homage to home apparent on Back Down South and Radioactive. But these songs are going to fall somewhere in between and depending whether you enjoy or don?t enjoy the album as a whole will tilt the balance for you on whether you think this album is successful or not.

Kings have thus presented quite an enigma with this album. It is essentially retrospective but to even say so would mean that this is the first time the Kings have actually planned an album’s outlook.

The music is undeniably enjoyable but something of their ‘good old southern boys appeal has strangely been lost in their evolution. An evolution they hoped would be more an honest portrayal of their upbringing and their roots. The singles will sell the album but the rest of the songs are supposed to make an impression, they are supposed to define the band at present, which is where I am sad to say I think they have undersold themselves.

Also see:
http://radioactive.kingsofleon.com/
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/reviews/album/45342/223211
http://prettymuchamazing.com/reviews/albumreviews/comeaftersundown

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