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Early Listening: Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown UPDATE

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There is perhaps no band as celebrated as they are reviled these days than Tennessee rockers Kings Of Leon. Always the lightning rod of controversy, Kings Of Leon broke new ground with their commercially viable 2008 release Only By The Night. That album brought the band a Grammy for the song "Sex on Fire," the not-so-subtle epitome of a band selling out.

October 19 marks the release of the band's 5th album, Come Around Sundown. However, this didn't stop the album from hitting the internet this past weekend. While I originally panned the idea of actually listening to the album, I sucked it up and gave Come Around Sundown a shot. The results were disheartening, to say the least, for someone who used to be a pretty big fan of the band.

I mention my former appreciation for the band to highlight the fact that I once loved their music. Youth and Young Manhood was a revelation when it was released in 2003, and Aha Shake Heartbreak -- what many consider to be the band's best effort -- was an impressive follow-up in 2004. I am one of the few that thinks that 2007's  Because of the Times to be their best work, even though it was critically panned. 

2004 seems like decades ago for Kings Of Leon.

Come Around Sundown sees the band yet again working with producers Angelo Petraglia and Jacquire King, the creative force behind bringing the band out of their indie rock "drudgery" and into the iPods of Twilight-loving tweens across the country (ahem, "Sex on Fire"). There's nothing wrong with that demographic -- hell, they are the ones who actually still go out and buy albums -- but this same demographic never made headlines for their amazing taste in music, fashion, literature, etc.

At any rate, by the time I got to the 8th track on Sundown, "Beach Side," I couldn't help but exclaim, "what the hell happened to this band?" This album is so tame -- so safe -- that it its disappointment is rooted in its flailing ambition -- or perhaps lack thereof. The mellow vibe throughout the album makes me long for the Young Manhood days when the Followills all had ridiculous amounts of hair, fantastic moustaches and the thought of starting a clothing line would have been seen as preposterous. Sundown sounds like a calculated business decision -- as if the band recorded the album with a banner reading "Play it safe, boys" adorning the studio wall. 

Album opener "The End" relies on a catchy bass line and a sprawling chorus, complete with Caleb Followill repeatedly declaring, "This could be the end." I find it hard not to listen and wonder if he's being serious -- if he's warning everybody that Sundown could be the final album for the band.

If that's the case, then you can find me listening to Youth and Young Manhood, weeping while I struggle to wonder how it all came to this.

Come Around Sundown is out 10/19 via RCA.

UPDATE: Discographies on Twitter has offered their take on the career of Kings of Leon. I couldn't have said it better myself.

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