Most mentions of walls in the last 12 months have involved Donald Trump and Mexico, so when festival favourites Kings Of Leon released their latest album entitled with this charged word, it posed somewhat of a welcome distraction. Unfortunately, the relief was rather short-lived. While record execs and the Followills' bank manager must be revelling in the success of the commercially viable rock-pop tracks this family quartet have been releasing over the past couple of years, music lovers who followed these boys at the very beginning have instead been inwardly groaning at their progressive blandness - and sadly 'WALLS' doesn't do much to rectify this.
The album kicks off with its best track, 'Waste A Moment', which boasts punchy harmonies and a chorus that's ripe for a singalong, and there's a hint of Caleb's distinctive wavering vocals as he implores us to "never ask to be forgiven". Meanwhile, 'Around The World' is another song to get the listener nodding along, with its tropical-esque beat - even if it does sound as if the band have raided Two Door Cinema Club's melody book; while the chords and lyrics of 'Find Me' have a satisfying urgency that builds as the track progresses.
But the rest of the record is rather forgettable, and the songs seem to merge into one. The spark and passion that was still present even in later tracks such as 'Sex On Fire' a few years ago has burned out, and these new offerings feel fairly soulless and meaninglessly churned out. 'Reverend' possesses a similar languid tone and pace to many of the slower songs that comprised their 2008 album 'Only By The Night', while 'Over' is so lengthy and repetitive that after a minute you wish it would take after its own name and just finish. The production aspect of the record isn't that great, either - the instrumental parts are so dominating that the majority of the time you can't distinguish what is actually being sung (and not because Caleb is doing that hurried mumbling thing we all know and love).
Yes, it's understandable that every band goes through stages of development and their sound transforms as they do. However, Kings of Leon are now so wholly removed from the rough-and-ready style that made their early releases utterly compelling, you can't help but think the band must be fully aware of this shift - and wonder if they feel somewhat uncomfortable at having abandoned their southern rock roots in favour of tracks-to-please-the-masses that feel as manufactured as this record's cover artwork. Sadly, it seems time to accept that long gone are the days of their furious frenetic riffs, gnarled vocals and tracks that sizzled with so much energy it could barely be contained. And music is definitely worse off for it.
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