Kings of Leon Lose Touch With Their Audience

Kings of Leon -- "Come Around Sundown" -- RCA -- 2.5 STARS

Courtesy RCA

Kings of Leon made a widely publicized promise to a return back to their roots with their newest studio album, “Come Around Sundown.” But the songwriting does not only fail to herald back the style of early Kings of Leon, it leaves much to be desired by all standards; with forgettable compositions that lack a heart, the band’s latest work is disappointing for die-hard fans and new ones alike. There are a few redeeming songs which contain stronger lyrics from Caleb Followhill and his two brothers-turned-bandmates manage to somewhat absolve this album with astounding drums and bass guitars throughout the songs. However, “Come Around Sundown,” though it has strong musical performances, is entirely held back by the poverty of the music and lyrics.

The lyrics on “Come Around Sundown” is glaring in its failed attempt to appeal to a generic crowd. In one of the most lyrically weak songs, “Back Down South”, Caleb sings “Come out and dance / If you get the chance” followed by “Underneath the stars / Where we park the cars”. This unnecessary rhyming couplet style makes the song feel repetitive, dull and written for the sake of rhyme rather than feeling. Fortunately Caleb’s rustic voice saves the drab combination of syllables, but such a tolerance wears off as the album progresses. By the time the phrase “I got no money but I want your soul” repetitively kicks in during the bridge of “No Money”, it sounds like the band just gave up on writing meaningful songs and went straight for the hooks.

Admittedly, the album has some stronger points that render “Come Around Sundown” an acceptable venture for the Followhill crew. “Radioactive”—which was the first single from this album and which also made it into the US Billboard Alternative songs charts at number 1—has a vibe similar to Kings of Leon classics such as “On Call”, “Sex on Fire” and “Notion.” It has a strong combination of energetic riffs, intense drumming and emotive vocals, which send a tingle down the spine. It’s a shame that the rest of the album does not follow the success of this track; although the lyrics are not the best the band have produced (“It’s in the water / It’s in the story / It’s where you came from” sounds more clichéd each time it’s repeated) the passion and feeling in the song holds strong and it is the only one which can be remembered from a monotonous collection of 16 songs.

The deluxe edition of the album does, however, come with a “Choir Remix” of “Radioactive,” which is a convincing plea for a second chance after this less than revolutionary fifth album. The gospel dimension added to the song demonstrates Caleb’s talent as a vocalist in drawing out notes to impart feeling and emotion. The extra depth added by the chorus of backup vocals brings attention to the tight composition of the instrumental sections.

There is also hope for Kings of Leon in songs like “Pickup Truck”, which opens with calm music and smooth vocals and builds to hit a strong climax as Caleb belts “Hate to be so emotional / I didn’t mean to get physical”. Combining the right level of meaningful lyrics with a powerful guitar and percussion blend, the song serves to balance out the more intense nature of “Radiocactive.” However, this blend of musical and lyrical success cannot be found anywhere else in the album.

While they were true to their southern rock roots, Kings of Leon have given successful products like “Youth and Young Manhood.” They do seem to have a sound of their own to give but this under-par album falls short of reaching both what fans have come to know and love and what might possibly garner Kings of Leon wider fame. It’s unfortunate to think that a band that brought such strong music throughout the past few years may be losing touch with their audience; but it’s even more unfortunate to think that they are trying to expand their appeal at the expense of their established fans.

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