The Daily Gamecock

Kings of Leon pursue new direction, fall somewhat short

Album: "WALLS"

Release Date: Oct. 14 

Label: RCA Records

Grade: B

When a band has reached legitimate status as a mainstay in the contemporary playlist of music, more often than not, the thinkspace of the listeners and the direction of the culture influences them to a greater degree. When bands first start to enter into the world of music, they have an obligation to give a true first impression. With far less expectations and a burning need to attract fans, bands tend to adapt over time in order to stay relevant in the barrage of passing tastes, and Kings of Leon's latest album is no exception.

Kings of Leon’s Nashville roots and echoing arena rock sensibilities have made them a more powerful entity as time goes on, but they too are susceptible to the changing times. In the three years since their last album, “Mechanical Bull," Kings of Leon have openly stated a purposeful metamorphosis in the making of their music and their image. The BBC reported on Nathan Followill’s statements of the band’s need to break of their own self-described “comfort zone” by dropping their main producer, Angelo Petraglia, for the expansive Markus Dravs of Arcade Fire and Coldplay. With a change in scenery by recording back in Los Angeles, Kings of Leon gives a tweaked brand of themselves in their new album “WALLS” (an acronym for We Are Like Love Songs).

The album kicks off with the song “Waste a Moment," a familiar ode to their famous single “Use Somebody." It then sinks to “Reverend,” a restraint song that discusses the life of country legend Blaze Foley. The clearest example of their desire to change their sound is “Around The World,” thanks to Matthew Followill’s streaking guitar cuts and a radio-contagious chorus. Track-for-track, “WALLS” does manage to stay on top of itself without folding under its design. With Nashville long gone, the Kings of Leon produce a more constructive rock sound that feels steady in the middle of rolling tracks. “Muchacho” is the by-product of their new, sunny disposition with a complex medley of sounds like whistling, electric and acoustic guitars and distant percussion, the result helps you imagine a night in Ecatepec. The final track, aptly named “WALLS,” is a soft ballad that brings a tight bow to Kings of Leon’s desired trajectory.

On “WALLS,” Kings of Leon can do no wrong; however, they only seem to be on the cusp of their formative transformation. A new image, produce and studio should be enough to grab Kings of Leon out of their headspace, but they all just feel like new inspiration to their already established sound. Kings of Leon set the lofty, self-made goal of trying to be recognized in a rotating platform of rap, pop and EDM that still stands outside of what they represent. Even the stellar album lacks remarkable substance to be categorized as anything but different. If this is outside Kings of Leon’s comfort zone, can they explore more of this exotic place? If so, then we as fans can only wait and see the rest of the terrain down the road. But if not, they can always fly back to that familiar place that isn’t as far away as they think. 


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