To their credit, even Kings of Leon realized how awful a song their big hit "Sex on Fire" was. In a teleconference with the band earlier this year, they were asked how they felt about certain covers of their songs, like Nick Jonas performing "Use Somebody." Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill concluded his answer by saying, "It's definitely better than if they were covering that piece of sh-- 'Sex on Fire.' " Publicists were quick to jump in and insist he was kidding. Caleb held his ground, later sneaking in, "And I wasn't joking about that 'Sex on Fire' thing, don't let them convince you of that."
Whether he was kidding or not, his band has made a record that clearly struggles against that very kind of cop out -- and loses.
No doubt the band's label strongly encouraged them to make another album of radio-ready bombast (with coffers to match 2008's "Only by the Night," please), and despite its leisurely pace "Come Around Sundown" sounds big -- full of booming drums, roomy echoes and arena-filling arrangements. But sometimes the songs are so big there's not enough music to fill them. "The End," "Pyro," "Beach Side," these and others often feel like vamps, especially on the verses. Everything serves to guide us to the effervescent choruses ("Radioactive" is one that really hums). On the way there, though, the songs lumber, they keep time, they make occasional noise but they hardly ever really rock. The lone exception is the hard-swinging "Mary," a rollicking bit of Southern doo-wop with a hot riff and a sizzling solo.
Many songs seem frankensteined together from smaller, softer ideas. The hero of these bits is Jared Followill, whose bass invigorates the most interesting parts -- percolating underneath "The Immortals" (allowing Caleb to reel off some Beat-lite verses about the open road), lurking seductively behind the weepy violins of "Back Down South," providing the only real heat in "Beach Side" and galloping through "Pony Up." Otherwise, Kings of Leon mosey along, trying to live up to their unfortunate U2 comparisons. They're not U2. They're a Southern-sounding band with huge support and big corporate machinery but they lack enough challenging ideas to fill the space. So they're the Eagles.