Fame and fortune has been getting to Caleb Followill; ‘I don’t want the world to start to hate us because every time you’d turn on the radio you hear one of our songs…’
Really, you can’t blame him. It’s the trap of the age – success with the charts, failures with the critics and resentful disappointment from original fans. And for Caleb it is his misfortune that Come Around Sundown, though only released a few weeks ago, is already predicted to be King’s biggest selling album.
It’s hardly fair that record sales are synonymous with the loss of a band’s credibility, but the cliché of hating on the mainstream has been an interesting social phenomenon plaguing the music industry for the last few years.
Kings of Leon will always be good musicians. Apart from owning copyright to the unique vocal ability of Caleb Followill they also have a rare energy and a confidence to venture into untried musical territory. Respect will and must be maintained. Indeed, as Followill told the less than enthused crowd of the 2009 Reading Festival, ‘we know you're sick of Kings of Leon, so for all those who don't give a fuck about us, I understand. But we've worked fucking hard to get here. So anyone that has anything to say to us, fuck you. We're the goddamn Kings of Leon.’
Obscenities aside, he’s right. They’re the goddamn Kings of Leon. And though I was considerably underwhelmed by Only By the Night, and though I swear to god I really would hit someone if I heard Sex on Fire one more time…actually I take that back – I’d rather have it as my ringtone than ever having to listen to Use Somebody again, I can’t forget that these guys produced Aha Shake Heartbreak and I refuse to be sceptical about Come Around Sundown.
Mainstream bias aside, Kings of Leon are undoubtedly more accessible than they used to be. Their sound has lost its raw edge for the shine of chart-topping polish. But, saying this doesn’t mean that Come Around Sundown isn’t good. Their sound is different, it doesn’t mean it is worse. And though I may pine for the return to the days of Soft, Charmer and Molly’s Chambers I don’t want to write off their new work just yet.
I lament the fact that Radioactive was their first choice of single as I fear its susceptibility to becoming overexposed. With no exception, it is the latter half of the album which most appeals to me. In particular I quite like the blues and country twang of Kings of Leon’s new style. With strong resonances of their Tennessee roots, Back Down South has elements of old favourite Knocked Up minus the heavy drums and bass. Back Down South is followed by Beach Side – another new sound for Kings, defined by the wailing of the guitar in a higher register – and the interesting bass and cowbell beat of Pony Up. Still, I’m inclined to award No Money the gold star of the album; it is a direct example of the ability of the band to build upon an already powerful beginning (and I can’t help but feel it is a lament to the old days).
The band perhaps too hoped that Come Around Sundown would be more in the vein of their older work. There were promises of a ‘darker’ and ‘grungier’ album but all must accept that the reality is instead a better version of Only By the Night. Apart from Pyro there are less painful ballads and most of the album has veered (thankfully) away from the U2 stadium rock comparisons.
I was 17 when I passed up a spare ticket to Kings of Leon’s Hordern Pavilion concert in their Australian tour of 2008 and I’ve always regretted it. I caught them last year at the second day of Ireland’s Oxygen Festival but really my most defining memories of this performance was overplayed songs and a near-death experience involving overwhelming quantities of mud in the midst of a too-big mosh. For me, I’m holding out for another opportunity to see them live where I’m equipped with gumboots and the radio hasn’t yet killed off No Money.
Highlights :: "No Money", "Back Down South" & "Beach Side"