Kings of Leon have had a wide variety of sounds throughout their career, from muscle grunge to stadium-ready pop. Dancing bass lines and Caleb Followill’s raspy voice are some key components to how the band captures the audience. I’ve noticed those things have always stayed consistent in the writing themes of Kings of Leon. With WALLS, their 7th full length effort, however, the band fuses its old and new sound into one record. Portions of the music come close to fruition. Others seem to fade from their musical fervor, entirely.
Producer Markus Dravs helped create some honorable albums during the 21st century, including Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons and Neon Bible by Arcade Fire. I don’t think this album’s mishaps were his fault. An album that showcases the gritty rock band shoving their musical intuitions under the rug points the finger at the ones playing the instruments. The familiar jangle of the guitar is present. But, I think crisp song writing has taken a back seat to filler tracks, stapled together with only a few glimpses of the band in the rearview mirror.
It may go without saying by now, but Kings of Leon seem to have suffocated themselves with this new project. Their hiatus in 2012 didn’t even last a full year, however, during that time, bassist Jared Followill teamed up with Nick Brown of Mona to create Smoke & Jackal, an electro-pop project. The album didn’t catch anyone’s attention, except for the Kings of Leon.
WALLS embraces that electro-pop sound. The mellow clavichord sounds are true in “Reverend”, a song that stretches into an arrangement of repeated chorus lines. “Like a reverend on the radio/ your heart will never let go” fits the motto of the album (WALLS is an acronym that stands for “We are like love songs”). But, it’s concerning how this offering from the band would make anyone delve into the love ideals. It would be one thing if the band stuck to the sound and just went with an electro-pop album. Instead, they decided to find refuge in switching between modern electro-pop and classic rock. The two genres are mixed into nearly all 10 songs. The hybrid result is undoubtedly prosaic.
“Around the World” would have fit with the beach vibe of 2010’s Come Around Sundown. The track has a modest pulse with a Bombay Bicycle Club twist. The thing is, I don’t want to dance to Kings of Leon. I think the band represents itself best when it displays hints of rebellious screams and kick ass leisure. Kings of Leon have no need to extenuate in this manner.
I value the slow patterns and the slurring words in “Muchacho”. The sad connotations bring some welcomed continuity to the band. Also, “Conversation Piece” is the best lyrical song on WALLS. I think the band so often talks about reminiscent ideas of travel and women. They’ve built up these landmarks in their career that shouldn’t be forgotten.
The final song is the title track. An acoustic guitar rides through on a repeated cycle, with a piano also noticeably present. Kudos for bravery with adding piano as an instrumental highlight. But, this song accounts for nothing that has made the band great.
The tightly knit Kings of Leon confirm my thoughts of a rough go at album number 7.
Indie Rock | RCA Records