Life’s never been quite the same for Kings of Leon since their last CD.
2008’s Only By the Night was something of a monster, its festival-friendly sound – ringing guitars, epic vocals – driving sales to the six million mark and romping home with a battery of Grammys. As Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder told the band: “You’re about to ride a big wave”.
They’ve certainly come a long way since their debut seven years ago, when they were invariably billed as beardy Southern cousins of The Strokes. These days there’s a certain authority, and more than a dab of polish, about them. That’s not to say, thank the Lord, that they’ve suddenly done a U2. Seemingly conscious of avoiding what many might now expect – i.e. stadium-sized complacency – Come Around Sundown instead feels like a summation of their career thus far.
For the most part it’s a return to first principles. Both Back Down South and Mi Amigo, for example, the first a spacy mountain ballad with fiddle and gospel hosannas, are as heavily countrified as they are wistful. And Radioactive and the surging Mary rattle along like anthemic garage-rock songs with added lacquer.
These boys know where they’re headed, alright. But crucially, they’ve not forgotten where they came from.