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Kings of Leon: Come Around Sundown
Read the following slowly. On ‘The Face’ of things, Kings of Leon seem to be ‘The Immortals’ of contemporary rock. The media-shy group may prefer things ‘Back Down South’, but in ‘The End’, when it’s time for business, they always ‘Pony Up’ and ride back to the ‘Radioactive’ world of selling hit record after hit record. Yes, these are all song titles from the Followills’ new album, Come Around Sundown.
Brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared along with their cousin Matthew have consistently nailed down the perfect balance of ingredients to a successful song. 2008’s Only by the Night enjoyed huge commercial success and critical acclaim with infectious songs like ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’. With the latter being their biggest success to date, they went on to headline no less than ten festivals across 2008 and 2009, including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds in the UK, as well as Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits in the USA.
Naturally then, much has been expected of the foursome, who actually hit the heights of fame in the UK before they did in their native USA. With this being their fifth studio album in seven years, one might think that they’d have become weary of this whole rock-n-roll thing, right? The answer is a resounding....yes, probably. First of all, though; Come Around Sundown is classic Kings of Leon; so have your air guitars at the ready.
‘Radioactive’ is a somewhat safe choice as a first single. It’s by no means the strongest track on the album, but it picks up nicely from where the last album left off. The first half of the album is exactly as you’d expect it to be: whaling guitars, whaling vocals and easy sing-along lyrics. Opener ‘The End’ sets this tone, and ‘Pyro’ and ‘The Face’ cement it, but by the time you get to ‘The Immortals’, the sound starts to feel tedious.
Thank God for ‘Back Down South'. Its charming deep Southern clatter saves the day, and from then on, it’s pretty smooth, if unspectacular, sailing. Again, most accurate thing to be said is that it is typical Kings of Leon.
It is surely now the case that the Kings of Leon are so big, so successful and so influential; that they can afford to break the mould. for better or for worse, Come Around Sundown is still riding the coattails of Only by the Night, but it will probably continue to dominate the airwaves and pick up awards.
A self-assessment of the album would probably incite no more than a nonchalant shrug from the guys themselves. It’s a quite passively made record, and it gets away with it by the skin of its teeth.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.