It’s been 5 years since Kings Of Leon put out Walls, but that hasn’t kept them from pushing forward and exploring new avenues. When it comes to their latest album When You See Yourself, that statement doesn’t exclusively pertain to the compositional merits of the record; it’s also the second album in history to be released as a non-fungible ticket (NFT), a new cryptocurrency-based form of release that’s started to gain momentum this year. What comes of the new NFT trend is yet to be seen; of bigger import right now is Kings Of Leon brushing off the dust after their longest break between records to date and maintaining longevity.
So do they still have it or what? “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away” opens the record; a boilerplate example of the southern-tinged alternative rock hybrid they’ve made their calling card over the years. “The Bandit” is fairly similar though a bit more energetic, while “100,000 People” saps whatever life was built up on “Bandit” back out again- not a good start, with the first three of eleven total songs on the record sounding far too close together on a sonic level and limp on an energetic level. “Stormy Weather” picks it up a bit more; “A Wave” starts off floating in space and somewhat disappointingly falls into the band’s typical mold soon after. By “Golden Restless Age”, admittedly the synths are a nice touch but it doesn’t do much to break the run-of-the-mill trap Kings Of Leon have fallen into.
Next is “Time In Disguise”, a mellow-ish number with some colourful guitar textures and punchy drums, though here and throughout the record Caleb Followill’s vocals don’t shine through like on previous records- Something Pitchfork blamed on acclaimed producer Markus Drav’s bungling of the mix. “Supermarket” is a bit more a departure from the same old on account of its eclectic percussion and light but effective harmonies, while “Claire & Eddie” is a nice little dose of woodsy indie campfire music that brings it back to Kings Of Leon’s core, though in a pleasant and lulling way rather than a sharp jump. “Echoing” brings the most energy out of any track on the record thus far, though it could have graduated into a greater climax beyond the plateau its jumping shuffle takes it to. Closing the record is “Fairytale”, a chilled-out, immersive number logically perfect for a closer, the texturing of the strings, bass and acoustics being a particularly nice touch as the track builds and ultimately fades away.
When You See Yourself starts out rather unexciting and hardly differing from the band’s previous output, though there is undoubtedly more life and variety in the last few songs. The most glaring flaw of the record, aside from the apparent lack of spirit that Kings Of Leon possessed in their prime is missed potential; there are several places throughout the album where certain elements could have been amplified and certain opportunities seized upon to create the greatest possible effect. Perhaps when your career doesn’t excite you to the extent that it once did, your artistic instincts dull and you don’t pick up on the things you would have before. Whatever, or whoever made this record what it is, it could have been a lot more than what it is. Perhaps this will be the pretext for Kings Of Leon to make a glorious comeback and return to form; if not then it’s hard to say what else they could give at this point.