You guys remember Kings Of Leon? Three brothers, one cousin, and a plethora of fashion trends in the early 2000s that spanned 70s bell bottom blues, Mason Dixon faux punkers, Skynyrd art rock, and then finally Tom Ford fashion spread top 40 jams? Yeah, I figured you did. It seems that even after their sex caught fire they continued making albums, accompanied in the studio by extremely hands-on producers and songwriter doctors that helped with both chord changes and fashion changes alike.
You can’t blame the Followill boys for soldiering on, making album after album of retreads, repeats, and newfound chameleon-like skills to mirror what came before and what is currently happening now. If you can make a living in rock and roll, and you can pull it off live, why not? I was on board for those first three albums. I dug the handlebar mustaches, patched up Goodwill jeans, and the spunky energy in tracks like “Molly’s Chambers”, “Taper Jean Girl”, and “Charmer”. But somewhere along the line the gritty rock and roll swagger was replaced by fashion spread looks, spoiled artists antics, and a Cream of Wheat blandness that not even the most skilled of song doctors could fix.
With album number eight, the aptly-titled When You See Yourself, Kings Of Leon continue to create mildly catchy songs interspersed among filler on albums that never seem to come close to those youthful records that came before. It feels like going thru the motions, with no emotion.
There’s a moment very early on with When You See Yourself where I was feeling a little hopeful. Album opener “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away”, while not possessing that spitfire spirit and amp-buzzing fun of yore, feels like a proper progression to something else. Older, more mature Followills making something of years lived, lessons learned, and maturity gained. The loping rhythm, subtle electronic touches, and Caleb Followill’s aged voice all come together like something maybe Brian Eno might have produced. While not jaw-dropping, this song feels like a step forward for Kings Of Leon. “100,000 People” is similar in vibe. Sort of a monotone, maudlin feel that is comfortable, if not inspiring. And album closer “Fairytale” is sonically interesting. Slow motion, dreamy track that makes good use of atmosphere and reverb. Too bad this couldn’t have been sustained.
Soon enough we’re back in a cycle of wash, rinse, repeat. “Stormy Weather” stays in the middle lane, mopey southern soul for the Adult Alternative channel on Sirius. “Golden Restless Age” seems to be channeling Band of Horses through the early 2000s New York indie rock resurgence to no avail. “Claire & Eddie” is a sad-eyed soul ballad that feels like every other sad-eyed soul ballad we’ve heard over the last five years.
If you’re interested in hearing what the Followills have been up to, give When You See Yourself a spin. You might enjoy about half of it.
5.6 out of 10