Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kings Of Leon - Radioactive

Prior to purchasing the new Kings of Leon album (“Come Around Sundown”) my exposure to the band was fairly incidental. We heard them in concert a few years ago when they opened for U2, which means we tolerated them while we waited for the band we actually went to see (and at that time no one had heard of Kings of Leon, believe me). I am also fairly skillful at playing their song “Sex On Fire” on Guitar Hero; it’s one of only two songs that I’m reasonably good at. Finally, it was almost impossible not to have heard their huge hit “Use Somebody” from their last album at least 8,000 times about a year ago. I liked it at first, but it started getting old after about the 4,000th time I heard it.

After having several big hits and really becoming widely known from their last album, Kings of Leon was the recipient of some negativity prior to the release of “Come Around Sundown”. One of the band members noted in Rolling Stone that if anyone had to listen to anything as much as the general public had to listen to the songs from their last album they would certainly end up hating it (I’m paraphrasing but not much), so there is some self recognition about the overexposure. The band also got some bad press a few months back when they aborted a concert after playing only three songs. Apparently the rafters of whatever venue they were playing were populated with pigeons relieving themselves on the audience (and band) members, and they were thereafter characterized as divas for bailing on the concert.

Because of this, they’re a little jumpy about how well this latest album will be received. The band is comprised of three brothers and their cousin. The brothers’ father and all four band members’ grandfather were both named Leon; hence the band’s name. They’re from the south: the brothers are from Tennessee and the cousin from Mississippi, and all four currently reside in Nashville. As a result, some of their songs have a hint of a country twang to them. The sound on some of the songs also walk just this side of whiny, so I think they need to be a little careful about that.

I did enjoy listening to this album. When I started thinking about what I wanted to write, I decided to look at the lyrics for the songs; because of the sometimes twang and the almost whininess, not all of the lyrics are easy to decipher while listening casually. When considering the lyrics, I realized with dismay that I couldn’t necessarily understand what they were getting at in a lot of their songs. What’s up with that, Kings? I don’t like to think that the Kings of Leon are too smart for me as I pride myself on having solidly mediocre intelligence. I concluded that I should just leave the lyrics alone and enjoy the songs.

Many others must agree: this album is actually both #1 and #3 on iTunes right now, once for the extended version (a.k.a. the $14.99 version) and once for the regular version ($10.99). Of course, because I didn’t notice that there were two versions when I downloaded this at 5:30 a.m. last Tuesday morning, I bought the extended version, which has five more tracks than the regular version. I should note, however, that three of those five tracks are related to the same song (remix of the song “Radioactive”, video for that song and video for the making of the video). Therefore, if you don’t like “Radioactive” it’s probably not worth the extra $4.00 for the extended version.

Luckily for me, I do like “Radioactive” and especially like the remix version as it features a gospel choir, also highlighted in the video for the song. The other tracks I liked were “Back Down South”, which has a definite country feel to it (as you might guess from the title), and “Birthday”, which is easy to sing along to. I know “Radioactive” is supposed to be their first radio single, although I’ve only heard it once on the radio so far. If you’re interested in learning more about the band, there is a 14 part interview with them on both their website and YouTube (yes, 14 parts). They’ll be (or or possibly were by the time you read this) on Saturday Night Live on October 23rd, which will be big for them.  Here is the video for "Radioactive"- enjoy!

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