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Kings of Leon - When You See Yourself (Album Review)

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh

After going supernova with the commercial smash of 2008’s ‘Only By The Night’, Kings of Leon’s habits got the better of them. Bust ups, booze and other troubles took hold of the Followill family and threatened the existence of the band. Having hit up on a strain of anthemic arena rock enjoyed by stadium-filling groups such as U2, they pulled in admirers at will before almost undoing it all, and subsequent albums struggled for the fizzing originality and relevance of their early work.

‘Walls’, released in 2016, briefly bucked the trend but, ultimately, the clues were there that this was a band past its best. Their eighth studio album, ‘When You See Yourself’, does little to alter current perceptions of the once powerful Nashville quartet.

There are good moments here, such as the familiar territory occupied by lead single The Bandit, where their unmistakable presence is felt in strong doses. But it’s also a sign of a band not pushing themselves, comfortable coasting along in the middle lane while others race past at breakneck speed. 

The catchy Stormy Weather injects a sprinkling of that oomph largely missing elsewhere as mesmerising percussion and a compelling rhythm section show some signs of life, but it’s not enough.

All too often, ‘When You See Yourself’ is like staring out across terrain with few memorable features. A lazy guitar riff and jangly chorus do their best to elevate the otherwise bland Golden Restless Age and 100,000 People is even less inspiring—so laid back it’s almost horizontal, just like the bore-fest Supermarket.  

Opener When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away encapsulates the entire album in one track: fleetingly interesting, mainly thanks to more intoxicating percussion, and promising for what is to come. That thrill, however, is like the anticipation of a special occasion, only to find that it’s just another day in your life.

It would appear that Kings of Leon have now reached a point in their career where they’re happy to churn out safe music that could quite easily be heard in the background of many a gathering without tearing the guests’ attention away from their hosts. Pleasant enough, but nothing new.

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