Kings of Leon have always acted like rock & roll royalty, even before Only by the Night went platinum in 12 different countries. What started off as good-natured posturing turned into the real deal in 2008, though, when “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” helped redefine the Followill boys as the new champions of arena rock. Gone were the songs about transvestites and coked-up supermodels; in their place were Top 40 anthems that swung for the fences, armed with U2-sized guitar riffs and giant, lighter-hoisting choruses. Releasing that sort of mega-selling album has its downside, too, and Kings of Leon found themselves struggling to prove that they hadn’t forgotten about their older fans. All of this makes Come Around Sundown the most important album of the band’s career, since it gives Kings of Leon a chance to choose which side of their audience they’d like to keep.
The answer? While few of these songs are as blatantly commercial as “Use Somebody,” the track list is still filled with super-sized, guitar-driven, modern rock pomp. After touring in support of Only by the Night for two years, Kings of Leon are acutely aware that loud, booming anthems are the best way to fill a stadium, and Come Around Sundown is engineered to sound as immense as possible. Nowhere is this more evident than in Caleb Followill’s choruses, which emphasize sustained high notes, and Matthew Followill’s guitar lines, which split their time between moody textures and cyclic, reverb-heavy riffs. The few diversions from that template are some of the album’s best moments -- “Mary” sweetens the band’s sound with a little doo wop, and “Beach Side” focuses on casting a mood rather than creating a spectacle -- but “Use Somebody” has become the band's benchmark, and most of Come Around Sundown is in that same commercial vein. ~ Andrew Leahey