Back in 2008, when Kings of Leon released “Only the Night” I was a bit disappointed with the direction that the band seemed to be going in. They had abandoned their dirty rock roots opting instead for a clean, shimmery clean arena ready sound. Even “Sex on Fire” the album’s sole “rock” song was washed in delays pedals. A band who spent three albums creating a distinct sound, suddenly sounded like everyone else. And while Kings of Leon’s guitarists is pretty decent, it was clear he was learning tricks from a certain knit-capped wearing guitarist who’s made an entire career out of using delay pedals.
The Edge is very inventive and knows how to construct a song based on atmospherics that only enhance Bono’s bombastic singing. The Edge wasn’t the first to create icy delays in rock song (it’s usually credited to Tom Verlaine of Television) but he certainly took it further than anyone else. It’s a sound that has made U2 distinctive, and like it or not associated with The Edge himself. Throughout the years, even The Edge has forgone his trade-mark style, looking for inspiration in distortion best seen on 1991’s “Achtung Baby”.
Somewhere within the past decade almost every single up and coming band that wanted to be reach as many fans as possible seemed to copy U2’s signature sound. It’s as if the guitar players from Coldplay, Snow Patrol, The Killers, among others each had a delay pedal and placed the settings on “Edge” and hit record. Unfortunately none of these bands are as good as song-crafting or inventive as U2, and they all of their front-men lack the charisma of Bono. These artists think that by aiming big and copying U2 they will be seen as a serious band with importance just like their heroes. Too bad that their efforts just come off as flat and pompous.
Two years after “Only By the Night” Kings of Leon released the first single from their forth-coming album “Come Around Sun Down”. I was hoping that they would opt for a stripped down sound in constrast to the sheen of “Only By the Night”. Amazingly, they not only set the guitars to “Edge” again, but they also managed to bring in a choir. When U2 played with a choir for a live version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at least you could tell they meant it.