By Jack Holmes
Is there nothing that can’t be improved with an 80′s vibe? Stranger Things dominated our TV screens not so long ago, synth is back with a vengeance in everything from Hip Hop, RnB to Indie music and Electronica. However, finding out that Kings of Leon’s seventh album Walls, makes a move might be surprising. The four-piece started their career brandishing a blues and southern rock sound, before progressively evolving into an arena sound for their massively successful Only by the Night, before moving once again, this time into the alt-rock territory.
Which is where we last saw them, their last album Mechanical Bull was a slight return to the band’s routes, they felt like a band trying to get back in touch with their identity. Even its album cover included an old American diner style sign, signalling their attempt to return to their bluesy routes. Although Mechanical Bull was a hit and miss, its singles were a real throwback to their origins, Supersoaker especially, which may not have raised the bar for the band, but certainly moved it closer to its position at the band’s peak.
Walls is the perfect chance for Kings of Leon to break out of the realms of mediocrity and become a key voice in original music. But Walls doesn’t break anything, it’s not original and it’s not awful, it sits firmly in a region some would class as worse, it’s dull, and worse still, forgettable.
There are glimpses of hope throughout the album, Find Me opens with a catchy fine picked guitar and danceable beat but the moment vocals start, the track nosedives through the floor.
That’s just Find Me as well, it’s difficult to pick out the worst songs because they’re never actively insulting to the ears, more like a first support act that the crowd largely ignore and talk through due to a lack of passion. Passion being one of the largest apparent lacking factors in Walls.
Take Over, a slow jam of over 6 minutes long should be a chance for Kings of Leon to bust out some real heart-wrenching emotion but the entire affair feels false. Singer Caleb Followhill never sounds believable in his love-struck cries “Don’t say it’s over” is sung as if read from a teleprompter.
By the end of Walls, you’ll be left wondering exactly how Kings of Leon fit into the modern music landscape, and not in the sense that they’re thinking so outside of the box it’s difficult to place them, more that they no longer have a clear drive or sound.
Whether Kings of Leon finally go back to their routes with their follow up or completely reinvent themselves into something new for their next album isn’t really the issue. They just need to find some drive to create music and sound as if they’re enjoying what they do. Walls sounds like it was a slow hard slog to create, and that’s not the sound anyone fell in love with Kings of Leon for.