The eighth album from the American rockers is an inoffensive, unremarkable reminder that Kings of Leon still exist.
American rock giants Kings of Leon return this month with their eighth studio album after a five year break, their longest gap between releases since the band arrived on the scene with rollicking debut Youth And Young Manhood all the way back in 2003. Not that you would have noticed their absence, considering the band's dismal output over the past decade - the Followills' early blend of Southern, Garage and Blues rock was best captured on breakout sophomore album Aha Shake Heartbreak, a landmark of the noughties which boasted such timeless singles as 'The Bucket' and 'Four Kicks', but ever since it's been a steady trend of increasing commercial success contrasted with diminishing creative returns.
The dreaded siren sound of cheeseball anthem 'Sex On Fire' was perhaps the jump the shark moment for many of the band's original fans as the noughties drew to a close, but KoL have continued to enjoy immeasurable success nonetheless thanks to the mass appeal of their Rolling Stone approved, Dad friendly, Southern fried rock. It's been a minute though, and Kings of Leon are still hungry to prove that they... well, exist. So without further ado, here's what the band have been sitting on for the past couple of years.
If you're approaching this record with the level of enthusiasm that I've spelled out above, then the results are actually pleasantly surprising - When You See Yourself is a mildly pleasing affair that reigns in the band's cheesier elements of years past, as Caleb and co. execute a series of dialed back basement rock jams that make for a low key breezy listen. Opener 'When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away' teases out a rhythmic intro with its groovy bassline before lead single 'The Bandit' brings out the type of festival friendly chorus that KoL have mastered throughout their discography. '100,000 People' is nicely carried by some light synth backing while 'Stormy Weather' and 'Echoing' also make for radio ready single material that is sure to hit the waves in the coming months.
Listening to When You See Yourself, you get the feeling that Kings of Leon know exactly what is expected of them at this stage in their careers - they aren't going to win any new converts with these easygoing rock ballads, but existing fans of the band are sure to be pleased as the Southern rockers oblige their audience with their quota of ''whoa-oh'' singalong moments and sticky guitar lines, all complimented by the reliable sheen of Markus Dravs' spick-and-span production . KoL are an easy sell when they aren't working too hard, and When You See Yourself does a good job of lowering the stakes and just allowing the band to essentially put a jam session on record without any of the fuss that usually accompanies such a high profile release.
By the same token, owing to its relatively low risk formula, you certainly aren't going to hear anything to blow your socks off here as Kings enter middle age and begin to settle into more of an understated rhythm on their eighth time out. If When You See Yourself was a colour, it would surely be the dull shade of beige that its album sleeve suggests - these tracks are inoffensive but unremarkable, as likely to stay in your memory as a vaguely pleasing wallpaper pattern.
All of which is to say that, despite its relative lack of identifiable issues (the album running perhaps ten minutes too long is the only source of discomfort I encountered in my listening experience), When You See Yourself is nothing to get excited about. Unlike some of their contemporaries who are finding an inspiring lust for second life as they enter a new era in their careers, Kings of Leon seem content just to exist by continuing to belt out this level of basically solid if unspectacular radio rock.
Hey, it's good work if you can find it.
4.5 / D
Best Tracks: 'The Bandit'/'Stormy Weather'
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Imploding The Mirage - The Killers
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