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Come Around Sundown
Hairy backwoodsmen of stadium rock take another step towards greatness
Peter Murphy, 01 Nov 2010
Kings Of Leon got assigned the wrong narrative. They’re not, in fact, some sort of backwoods-fabulous yarn cooked up by McCullers or O’Connor. They’re Dorian Gray with guitars. How many other bands can you name who started out as a hairy anomaly steeped in Creedence and the Stones, shaved the face-fuzz, revealing pretty boy cheekbones, modernised the production and came out the other end as a heavyweight albums band dug by skinny jeaned rock chicks and waistcoated garage rockers? All the more remarkable that they only broke Billboard on their fourth album, in an age when most bands have to fight for their third.
So, the Kings’ trajectory seems closer to Tom Petty or Thin Lizzy or any ‘70s act who got nurtured through youth and young manhood, allowed to hone their songwriting chops and find an audience via relentless touring. They’ve also gotten more studio-sussed, developing a fine grasp of atmospheres and a feel for big sonic spaces without relinquishing substance. Only By The Night was a grower, but by god it had depth.
‘The End’, the opening track on their fifth album Come Around Sundown, picks up where that last set ended – at dusk in the desert. It’s hinged around a drum figure that sounds like an arena soundcheck, high-rise guitars, Caleb Followill’s plaintive vocals, and a chorus that won’t quit. It quickly becomes apparent that for all their beer-guzzling, skirt-chasing schtick, this lot do that motherless son feeling to perfection.
It may be an obvious thing to point out about a band who grew up in the back of a truck, but the theme that haunts this album is roots: the relinquishing of and the search for. Come Around Sundown isn’t quite Southern Accents or The Band, but there’s a definite looseness and loneliness, a sense of a band pausing to consider the soil that spawned them. Road dog songs. Coming home songs. Blues-walking-like-a-man songs. Loud and mournful songs like ‘The Face’, ‘Back Down South’ and ‘The Immortals’, which seem to be set in Terrence Malick’s magic hour.