Thursday, October 21, 2010

Album Review: Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown (3.5/5)

No band rocked the United Kingdom harder than American rock band Kings of Leon in 2008. Their fourth album Only By the Night finally bestowed the ultimate modern day rock band title upon them--the remarkable set landed the band the international breakthrough hits ("Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody") and also granted them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album, while "Somebody" won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

Now onto its follow-up Come Around Sundown, I was excited when I read that this album would be a throwback to the raw alternative rock of their earlier work, but it still sounds way more accessible than Aha Shake Heartbreak and Because of the Times. However Sundown does showcase a more dynamic approach to rock than the last album, while still meddling with mainstream influences, only it's not as good. It's mostly hit and miss.

Some of the arrangements and alternative rock grandiose do re-call the same accessibility of Only By the Night, such as the soaring muffled-guitar rock balladry of opening number "The End" demonstrating the band's musical blueprint that entrenched Night: Shimmering production with hollowing drums, whittling guitar patterns in the backdrop which become more apparent as the soaring scape of the chorus kick in.

Lead single "Radioactive" is a fun guitar-driven composition over rapid drum lines tied in with an uplifting chorus, backed with optimistic harmonic "ooh" ing in the backdrop. Next up is "Pyro" which reigns in the optimism for a more subdued overture; Caleb Followill's bold scratchy vocals over pacing drums and different layered guitar patterns.

After the first two tracks, it's kind of a mixed bag throughout. "Mary" turns up the velutinous electronic guitars, which stutter throughout its blustering chorus. It's got the noise and the grand U2 inspired rock, but where's the energy? It's a decent track though. Better is "The Face" which strikes the all right chords, literally. It's a downbeat slow burning number, backed with layered guitar patterns in the backdrop which soar at the song's climatic end, the next track "The Immortals" sounds like a more upbeat re-tread of that.

The album loses steam on its weaker second half. The swaying country of "Back Down South" is a highlight, the downbeat rock of "Beach Side" is passable but the album sounds like a muffled blur from then on. "No Money" strains with muffled electronic guitars, particularly towards the end only it's not that interesting, neither is the clattering drum beats of "Pony Up" or the archetypal rock production of "Birthday" or "Mi Amigo," but the album close on a pretty strong note with angelic progression of "Pickup Truck" which plods with piano keys and hesitant guitars before the blaring guitars kick in on the chorus.

I only listened to their albums post-2008 a couple months ago and I can see some similarities between Come Around Sundown and those, however this album isn't nearly as interesting as those nor does it calculate the same well-balanced sound between mainstream and energetic grunge that's still appealing to the masses like Only By the Night. It doesn't fall flat, but it's not that great either.

Best: Radioactive, The End, The Face, Pyro, Pickup Truck, Back Down South

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