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Kings of Leon: “Come Around Sundown” is the final nail in their coffin for me

Kings of Leon are now streaming their new album Come Around Sundown on their web-site.  It doesn’t come out until next week, October the 19th, but I’m just glad I got the chance to stream it.  It’s not bad, but it’s incredibly mediocre, which I find more offensive.  At least if the album was really terrible, I could laugh at it like I do with anything that Nickelback , Live, Daughtry or Creed puts out.

Kings of Leon used to be my one of my favorite “new” bands.  I’ve seen them about 5 or 6 times at various different places.  In 2004, they were a completely different band.  Their fabled beginning of being preacher’s sons hadn’t worn out its welcome.  You knew that these guys were probably got shit-faced every single night, and had a slew of girls waiting for them at the end of the show.  And they looked like they just crawled out of the hotel room – unshaven and unkempt – ready to unleash their Stooges meets The Band hybrid of garage-rock.

Their second album Aha Shake Heartbreak was a water-shed moment for rock in the 2000s.  It was different than everything else that was out there – everything about it was dirty.   The flower on the cover looked like a vagina, Caleb Followill spat out lyrics about passing out in front of models at a party due to whiskey-dick.  And the music was pretty with such intensity and fury, that you could practically smell the beer-sweat on the guitar strings.  Even the  slower songs even left a burning impression.

2007’s Because of the Times found them discovering new sounds and textures, but many of the songs still contained the furious pace of their first two albums.  When I first heard “Sex on Fire” I thought it was a pretty good single, but it didn’t prepare for how shitty Only By the Night would be.  It seems that Kings of Leon think that by adding open space and letting a song breathe equates to a fantastic song.

Come Around Sundown continues this trend.  Every song is mellow and laid-back.  But it lacks originality and emotion.  All of the songs seem to run into one another.  Guitarist Matthew Followill seems to think that The Edge is the only guitar player worth listening to.  (And while I love U2 and The Edge, that particular sound becomes trite and boring when imitated.)

I’m all for bands growing and changing.  But it doesn’t mean you have to mellow your sound and become like everybody else.  I never thought that one day I might confuse a Kings of Leon song with one by Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Keane.

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Song of the Day: “The Bucket” – Kings of Leon

If you’re only used to hearing Kings of Leon through “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” Caleb Followill’s voice thoughout Aha Shake Heartbreak must come as a shock.  The sweet, tender, soulful voice is nowhere to be found.  Instead he sounds like a drunken Murmur-era Michael Stipe whose southern accent is even more pronounced.  The lyrics are purposely slurred, and inaudible.

“The Bucket” is the highlight of an album full of stand-out tracks.  It begins with Matthew Followill’s guitar riff that lies somewhere between lazy and commanding.  The hangover has ended, and the party is just beginning.  Someone shouts “wooo!” and the song turns into a shuffle once Nathan Followill rolls his drums in.

Before Kings of Leon got big I used to describe them to people as “the stooges drinking whiskey” or the “Allman Brothers on heroin”.   “The Bucket” isn’t country-punk, but it’s certainly country influenced and played by a garage-rock band.  Interestingly, “The Bucket” has fast verses, and slow choruses – the exact opposite of most Nirvana songs.

The song is apparently written by Caleb Followill to his younger brother Jared (KOL’s bass player) who was just 17 at the time of the recording to help him deal with the band’s newfound fame (they were huge in Britain for years before hitting in the US.)  “You kick the bucket, and I’ll swing my legs” seems to imply a brotherly relationship – we’re in this together.  By the end of the song, Caleb’s “gonna show the way,” and you know that he means it.

Like much of Aha Shake Heartbreak I became obsessed with “The Bucket” because even 5 years later, it sounds like nothing else.

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