There are two words that sum up "Come Around Sundown," the fifth album from the renowned southern-rock band Kings of Leon: mildly disappointing. The album includes some of the best songs the band has ever recorded, but it’s bogged down by bland, forgettable songs that make up the album’s second half.
The band, consisting of brothers Caleb Followill, vocals and guitar, Nathan Followill, drums, Jared Followill, bass, and their cousin Matthew Followill, lead guitar, has evolved from a rough, unpolished band heavily influenced by Lynyrd Skynyrd. After the release of their 2007 album "Because of the Times," and its blockbuster followup, 2008’s "Only By the Night," the group became one of the biggest arena rock bands in the world. With a big, polished sound, the band was able to bring a whole new fanbase, even though they started to become a little over-exposed (if "Use Somebody" makes you want to slam your head into the nearest wall, you’re not alone). But it still finally got the band the big break they deserved.
"Come Around Sundown" continues the sound established by "Only By the Night," while also incorporating some of the elements of their earlier work, so some of the songs don’t sound as over-processed as recent hits have.
The album begins with "The End," which establishes the laid-back, mid-tempo mood of the album. It contains grinding guitars, a string section, and Caleb Followill’s trademarked lonely, wailing vocals. The song is laced with a reverb, which makes the song sound more expansive then it actually turns out to be.
The next song, "Radioactive," which is also the album’s first single, is one of the finest songs in the band’s library. The track is a gospel-tinged blast that combines the sound of U2-influenced guitars and vocals with a soulful ambience that is similar to The Allman Brothers.
The first half of the album is filled with excellent music, including "Pyro," a tale of lost love set to a galloping rhythm, "Mary," a sweet love song with a 1950s doo-wop influence, and a ballad called "The Face," which is a beautiful ode to surfing and the search for love. This all culminates with the album’s best song: "Back Down South." The track reaches back to the band’s country roots, with fiddles and slide guitars, hand clap and gorgeous harmonies; it shows the band isn’t afraid to experiment with their sound, even after their enormous recent success.
Unfortunately, the remaining six songs on "Come Around Sundown" are a major let-down. One of the problems with making an album centered on a laid-back sound is that the songs might get boring and tiring toward the end of it. That is exactly what happens here. Songs like "Beach Side," "Birthday" and "Mi Amigo" are filler in the worst sense of the word; It feels like the band just recorded these songs in a hurry to fill out the running time. It’s hard to even describe any of them because they are all instantly forgettable.
"Come Around Sundown" is an album that began on an enormous high but sadly ends on a disappointing low. Die-hard Kings of Leon fans will probably pick this album up, but everyone else should just download the first seven songs. If all the songs on Kings of Leon’s next album are as good as "Radioactive" and "Back Down South," then they’ll truly be able to live up to their enormous potential.