Dear Kings of Leon:
I love you and I think you and the rest of the civilized world are aware of that. But never let it be said that my love is blind and cannot discern sounds good from sounds bad from sounds meh. And so everything that I say from here on is meant with my love:
For better or for worse when a band is as aurally distinct as Kings of Leon what comes with it, like road weary baggage, is a fierce protective streak for the little things that made you fall for them in the first place: little things like the rough and Nashville dirty, STD-optional, gender bent, bar room brawl, beer drunk, grudge fuck, cheap sex rock and roll, as well as not being able to understand one word that came out of Caleb Followill’s pornstashe-draped mouth. Fashionably, they came from an unfortunate place but musically…bless their humble hearts.
Over the years you, Kings of Leon, have traversed from being a band that couldn’t get arrested in the US to being able to walk off stage mid-performance due to an avian biological threat. How did we get here? And how the hell did we get to this fifth studio album, “Come Around Sundown”?
I’ll never begrudge a band for attaining success, mainstream or otherwise, because let’s be real: at the end of the day, a band’s got to pay the bills and hopefully have something left over to, I don’t know, buy a Happy Meal. And I’m all for progressing with your art because it should never be a static and repetitive thing. That being said, you guys have taken “mainstream” and “progression” to a level that I never thought I’d hear from you: boring. Dishwater dull, “is this the same band who made Aha Shake Heartbreak?”, you’ve gotta be shitting me, snorefest. Where to begin?
Your latest offering “Come Around Sundown” is a full collection of what sounds like KOL taking for granted the fact that “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire” were exceptions to the KOL rule and I had no idea that all of you, so young, could collectively sound so…old. Jenny-come-lately fans for whom you suddenly became sex candy with “Because of the Times” and sealed the deal with “Only by the Night”…this album’s may be for them, and then only because of “Radioactive”, the one spot of life even if the video does take “token black character” to a ludicrous place. But I cut my ear-teeth on the dark and self-conscious, often self-derisive, oft biographic, ball thrash of young dumb southern rockers who didn’t give a fuck but really did. And I thought U2 hit a grindingly mind-numbing Adult Contemporary low with “No Line on the Horizon” but you can almost forgive that: they’re in their 50’s, for fucks sake.
All others, if they’re like me they’re going to have trouble telling one reaching-for-the-rafters song from another on “Sundown”. Somehow you’ve even managed to make Nathan’s fluid drumming sound tedious and Matthew’s guitar seem more shimmeringly calculated than usual as every track feels like an ill-suited attempt for rock arena glory and that’s not what made my Kings of Leon such charmers. Gone are the rough sonic edges and vocal craft where I envisioned Caleb busting a nut in the heat of the song’s moment. And lyrically the closest that you seem to come to tapping into your restless, Jack and coke(caine)-fueled creativity is something about a bloody nose and panty hose in “Birthday” and the ever so plodding “Mi Amigo” where your girl praises your impressively sized genitalia and wants your skinny ass at home. Glad to hear it and now that I have visions of Caleb with a “big old dick”, my life has never been so complete.
Let’s look at it from another perspective: Kings of Leon’s first two albums were like rough, yet thoroughly satisfying sex.
These last two albums are obligatorily making love with the lights off and that’s something I can find no joy in whatsoever.
I think that Chris Cornell‘s “Scream” was the last time that I had such an effusive flow of f-bombs or other unladylike written words but that was because Cornell and that album pissed me the fuck off with it’s sheer awfulness and the insult that it was to music. Deja fucking-vu. Thanks for that, Kings of Leon.
Now where’s my “Youth & Young Manhood” CD?