The first track on Kings Of Leon’s new album is called ‘The End’. If the band named it as such to indicate a rejection of their last album’s highly polished sound, it’s a misnomer. KOL certainly go for a scrappier aesthetic in ‘Come Around Sundown’; their laughter at the end of ‘Back Down South’ evokes the image of an impromptu gig in front of a gaggle of rough rednecks, somewhere in a smoky bar in the band’s native Tennessee. The song’s faux-spontaneity is almost convincing, but then it ends and you’re left to ponder that mysterious laughter at its close.
This roughness, however, is just a symptom of nasty growing pains; all in all, KOL are handling success well. This is no Youth And Young Manhood; but better a band that evolves than one stuck in the mire of its former glory.
The band retain their signature sound in ‘Radioactive’: Caleb’s faintly hoarse whine, the soaring guitar line and the incessant drumming are all present and correct. ‘Pony Up’, with its optimistic melodies and play-in-the-sand beach vibe, is almost fun. And in songs like ‘The Face’, KOL work their magic, albeit of a less frenetic, less rockabilly kind: with its combination of beautiful lyricism and haunting melody, the song is reminiscent of ‘Milk’. This album may sound better in an arena than in a basement, but KOL still manage to excite in a way that only they can.