Album: Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown (RCA/Sony)
Failed coo: why it's still too early to poop the Kings' party
Sunday 17 October 2010
When a flock of pigeons, perched in the rafters above a festival stage, shat all over the Kings of Leon from a great height this summer, one of them scoring a direct hit on bassist Jared Followill's mouth, the temptation was to echo the immortal ad-lib of Patrick Marber when a horse had dropped an unscheduled load in the Knowing Me, Knowing You studio: "No manners, but what a critic."
The Followill family have been hard to love of late, their increasingly diva-like behaviour suggesting they've lost the plot, from petulantly haranguing their own audience at Reading 2009 for not responding with enough enthusiasm to turning up at this year's V Festival in separate cars and OCD-ishly demanding that the backstage area be completely cleared of other humans, lest they catch any germs.
Sometimes, celebrity psychosis can result in works of deranged genius such as Fleetwood Mac's Tusk. But Come Around Sundown is no Tusk, even if a line such as "You look so pretty with your bloody nose" in an otherwise cheerful song ("Birthday") suggests a band who have been partying too hard for too long.
Nor, however, have they completely dropped the ball. On their fifth studio album, KoL have played things fairly safe. Caleb still sings in the same hoarse, echo-assisted tone, and his brothers/cousins haven't done anything too crazy with the backing.
Opener "The End" is a piece of stately shoegaze-lite that will be all over the radio like the sort of rash the Followills might have picked up on one of their notorious early tours. Similarly, "Radioactive" has a calculated U2-via-Killers stadium grandeur. There are moments of bleakness, such as "Pyro" in which Caleb complains that "Everything I cherish is dying or is gone" ahead of a chorus which has more than a little of "Don't Fear the Reaper" about it, but the dominant influence is classic pre-punk 1970s radio rock.
"Mary", for example, is a big, irresistible Bay City Rollers scarf-waver, and you can imagine Tommy James and the Shondells having recorded "The Face", or Kim Fowley producing it. Somewhat unexpectedly, they flirt with the 1980s in a couple of places: "The Immortals" has a Flock of Seagulls/Duran Duran guitar interlude, while the rolling bassline of "Beach Side" is reminiscent of the Cure or New Order.
More typical, however, is "Back Down South" which, with lines such as "Come out and dance/ If you get the chance/ We're gonna spit on our rivals" and an ending applauded by whoops and yee-haws, exudes the same Confederate defiance as Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". Indeed, with titles such as "Pony Up" and "Pick Up Truck", Come Around Sundown is their most Southern album since their debut, Youth and Young Manhood.
At the end of the day, they haven't screwed up. It's almost disappointing.
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