Thursday 23 November 2017

Music: Kings of Leon ****

Come Around Sundown (RCA)

John Meagher

John Meagher

Caleb Followill may now refer to it as a "piece of shit", but Sex on Fire was the song that broke his band into the stadium worlds of U2, Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The ubiquitous anthem -- with its memorable guitar riff -- helped the accompanying album, Because of the Night, shift six million copies and, in the process, become the best selling (legally) downloaded album ever in the UK.

Followill has also had some choice words to say about the band's newest fans, but it's this very flintiness that has made the three brothers and cousin such a captivating, intoxicating entity since earning the sobriquet "Southern Strokes" with their 2003 debut Youth and Young Manhood.

They're a busy group too. Come Around Sundown is their fifth album in seven years, a statistic that's all the more impressive when you consider that bassist Jared is still just 23 years old.

Although it may not boast tracks as immediately appealing as the aforementioned Sex on Fire or, to go back further, The Bucket, this is an album showcasing a band close to the top of their form over its 47-minute run-time. Assurance and self-belief imbue most of the songs and although KoL are unlikely to rewrite the rule book, they do the simple things very well indeed.

Caleb's grungy vocals, with that unmistakable Southern drawl, make most other frontmen sound beige by comparison. Then there's Matthew's striking guitar, Jared's purposeful bass and Nathan's no-nonsense drumming. It all adds up to classic rock, music that could have been released any time over the past 40-odd years. Factor in the slick production of Jacquire King and the so-called "fifth member" Angelo Petraglia, and you've got an album tailor-made to hoover up new listeners and keep the old ones coming back for more.

The End, which opens proceedings, is -- like the bulk of this album -- stadium-sized. But it doesn't sound like it is straining for hugeness. It just works. One can imagine the song -- with the tender lyrics "I just want to hold you/ Take you by the hand" -- connecting with 80,000 people at Slane next year. (I'm willing to bet €100 right now that KoL will headline that 30th anniversary show.)

It's a similar story on Pyro -- a song machine-tooled to be heard collectively, in huge numbers. "I won't ever be your cornerstone," Caleb sings over Nathan's clear-as-crystal guitar. The atmospheric production has U2 written all over it.

But there are surprises aplenty too, from the appealing glam-stomp intro of Mary to the post-punk inspired The Immortals. The former is fun, if slight; the latter a grower that's among the best songs this foursome have ever delivered.

Kings of Leon's finest album remains their second one, Aha Shake Heartbreak, but Come Around Sundown is set to ensure they remain at the top for some time to come.

Burn it: The End; No Money; The Immortals

Irish Independent

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