Three years on, Kings Of Leon return with a brilliant effort. Their last few albums hadn’t been huge hits with their fans of their earlier work, myself being one, whilst they were far more accessible to the wider market. WALLS is somewhere in between the two, combining the fuzzed, garage-y sounds of Aha and the catchy pop style of OBTN. The first three tracks are the strongest for me, all of which were teasers for the album. However, the production of Around The World is somewhat too much, losing the gritty, soulful southern sound of their earlier albums. The raw, delicate sounds produced on Muchacho and Walls somewhat reminded me of an earlier Springsteen attempt, the former also having an uncanny resemblance of an iconic Ben E. King track whilst the latter is a moving ending, both being beautifully crafted tracks.
Despite the album being relatively consistent, I was left somewhat unfulfilled by a few tracks, namely Over and Wild which lacked development. But nevertheless, the diversity of the album from the catchy bass line of Around The World to the anthemic chorus of Reverend or the vulnerability of WALLS, this is a safe but great return for the Kings.
Picks: Around The World, Reverend, Walls
Kings Of Leon, notorious for fighting and booze-soaked lyrics, have made a surprising choice in playing it safe with WALLS. The opening track Waste A Moment replicates the glossy production of Mechanical Bull complete with soaring backing vocals, splashy cymbals, and bouncy guitar; the loping chords and looping arpeggios of Reverend evoke the band’s typically relaxed Southern sound. Nothing new so far… Even the obligatory long-running mid-album track (Over) rears its supremely average head; a sparkle of Strokes-esque guitar/bass interplay barely excuses the predictable stop-starts and frequently boring bass notes littered throughout the album. The album’s only stylistic shake-up is Muchacho, its shuffling Latino drumstick clicks and a reverberating drum pad backing providing an unusual and moreish sonic combo, like a Spaghetti Western soundtrack scored by Kraftwerk.
Subtle synthesised noises fuse well with the band’s arena rock riffs, but computerising your sound is the aural equivalent of polishing a turd, and no amount of shimmer reverb will mask a poor chord sequence. Kings Of Leon have stuck to their roots so well that they’ve stuck in the mud: their beat-up vintage Chevy of a musical outfit has given up the ghost, yet they’re still pushing it from behind regardless.
Picks: Waste A Moment, Muchacho, Wild
Finally, the walls have come down on the new Kings Of Leon album and…
My first thought on listening to the opening song, Waste A Moment, was that it sounded suspiciously similar to Supersoaker. From this it seems clear that Kings Of Leon, have not deviated from their formula of stadium filling sounds that are guaranteed to sell tour tickets and, probably, persuade millions around the world to buy the album.
WALLS keeps to the formula for much of the time, albeit with skilful delivery. However, the tempo moves to something much slower than you would expect at times. Initially I did not approve of this but after listening a few more times I realised that this is where WALLS is at its best. On the one hand, connection with these songs relies heavily on your investment into Caleb Followill’s internal emotional struggles. On the other hand, the lyrics are heartfelt and there is some deviation from the standard sounds of guitars, such as whistling in Muchacho as well as Piano and synths in the title track, WALLS, that differentiate this somewhat from previous albums.
Ultimately, Walls gets the combination of Stadium rock and quieter more, introspective, moments right. On first listen, it may seem average but play it a few more times and a far better album is revealed.
Picks: Find Me, Muchacho and WALLS
Members of the musical intelligentsia have been claiming Kings Of Leon need a rebirth ever since their third album. If WALLS, album seven, is anything to go by, the wait may continue. This attempt is a glimpse of what could have been. Kings Of Leon have drifted into listenable territory, with albums having a couple impressive, mouth-watering tracks and then a lot of safe, inoffensive chorus-y fillers.
They are musicians more than they are lyricists and on some songs they deliver in the areas they are known for, with trademark fantastic guitar parts particularly in Find Me, and the raw intensity of Caleb’s voice, such as in Walls probably the strongest song on the album. Walls is a fantastic, stripped-back ballad to finish giving the album a strong beginning and end, with flashes of interest in the middle, bright sparks surrounded by adequacy. The good songs are just good enough to make the album overall a positive LP but not enough to bring the rebirth their fans were hoping for. Songs like Use Somebody, Walls and their cover of Robyn’s Dancing on My Own (in my view possibly their best four minutes) have showcased their ability, an album striving to reach and stay at those heights rather than just settling for listenable (and sell-able) would be something special.
Picks: Walls, Waste a Moment, Find Me
Kings Of Leon are in a unique position as a band, straddling the line between critically acclaimed rock stars, and chart-topping pop stars. The band have shown through the years that they’re acutely aware of this, and with their last two records especially, they’ve tried to distance themselves from Sex On Fire and its legacy, getting back to the music that really matters to them.
Unfortunately, I find little of much matter in new album WALLS. Throughout the record there are some pretty melodies like in Muchacho, or the verses in Over, but overall the choruses are repetitive and bland. Wild and Eyes On You fade into nothingness in an album of little originality or substance, and we’ve heard these drum beats and guitar chords countess times before, to a lesser extent on Come Around Sundown, but definitely on Mechanical Bull.
It seems narrow minded to suggest that an artist has to do something really different to be worth something these days. With this band, however, I can’t help it. Their old material is so exciting, complex and layered that I can’t help but expect more from them now. In WALLS, however, there is no experimentation, no big ideas, no stand out moments. It’s a pleasant enough album, but it simmers rather than flames. I’m happy that Kings Of Leon are happy with what they’re doing, I just can’t say I’m there with them.
Picks: Walls, Muchacho