What makes a good Kings Of Leon album? A bad one? When a band exists in certain circles as an opportunity for “Use Somebody” jokes and toilet humor, it’s unclear what they’d need to do musically to shift the frequency. Much of the derision Kings Of Leon face is based on the Followills and their increasing self-parody (see: hipster clothing line, drunken interviews, “Sex On Fire”), but Only By The Night went platinum in the States, which means somebody’s cool uncle is listening. What happens if we close our eyes, put aside the cartoonishness, and give KoL’s fifth album Come Around Sundown a close(r) listen?
First problem: It’s almost an hour long. Second: It can be difficult dealing with Caleb Followill’s treacly voice and one-dimensional emotionalism. Most importantly: Most of the 13 songs are a snore no matter how hard you try opening your heart and mind. Casual fans will be bummed there isn’t another “Use Somebody” to blast at their next semi-formal gathering. Hardcore fans will be hard pressed telling apart all the mid-tempo rockers. Really, the guys go for atmospheric bombast on opener “The End,” but otherwise there are far too many generic stabs at Southern soulfulness and life (“Back Down South,” “Mi Amigo,” “Pickup Truck,” etc.) and moody melodrama (too mellow, sans drama). “The End” has forward momentum — otherwise, it often feels like they’re treading water in the shadow of a saccharine sunset. From “Pyro” to the more snarled “Mary,” “The Face” (“If you give up New York, I’ll give you Tennessee, soul sister”), “The Immortal”‘s cloying faux-dub anthemicism, the lame “Beach Side,” and onward, the effectiveness of Come Around Sundown depends on how many plodding breeze-swept ballads and “edgy” adult alternative you need in your life. And/or if you ever liked Blues Traveler. (They finally do rock out a bit and kick-up dust on “No Money,” but by song nine, you’re in a diabetic coma.)
After a few (too many) listens we can say, without irony, that Come Around Sundown’s most exciting moment’s been the debate over the “Radioactive” video. Otherwise, it’s hard connecting it to anything real.
Come Around Sundown is out 10/19 via Sony.