Kings of Leon get the Personal-a-Teas treatment
A true measure of the substance of a rock band is their ability to push boundaries, reinvent themselves, tell stories through different acoustic mediums. Fresh approaches to emotional topics. Recently, having seen The Kings Of Leon (KOL) release a new album, WALLS, the Promoter was understandably hesitant to engage. The history / discography of the KOL reflected the soul sucking comfortable dead zone which has engulfed many bands previously: examples: U2, Coldplay. Stadium sized pappness at the ready!
A whistle top tour of the KOL discography reads as follows:
Youth and Young Manhood: Unapologetic adolescent rebellion. (Stand-out Tracks: Wasted Time, Red Morning light, Spiral Staircase).
Aha Shake Heartbreak: Edgy, rough, whiskey-leaden, punch-drunk brilliance (Stand-out Tracks: The Bucket, Milk, Day Old Blues).
Because of The Times: This record has probably the most significance for the band. It heralded the maturing, and yet, early signs of decent into the mainstream. The seminal moment on the record is the terrifying (in a great sense) ‘Charmer’, the wondrous escapism of ‘Knocked Up’ and after hours thrill of ‘My Party’. However, uplifting vibes of ‘Fans’ is what hooked many a pop-receptive ear drum and lead to KOL inundating a ‘Middle of the Road’ radio station on the hour. It felt like a brain-washing experiment. This, obviously was not KOL’s fault, how could it be? What followed was…
Only By The Night: 2008’s pre-Christmas collection was laden with averageness and mainstream radio-friendly ‘anthems’. The dread of any self-respecting rock band came to pass for KOL. Their music became the staple diet of the wedding band industry. Nothing else can scream ‘disaster’! louder. ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’ unfortunately have made the ‘Now That’s’ What I Call Wedding Setlist Bliss’ album. Forever. In fairness, the opening tracks ‘Closer’ and the snarling ‘Crawl’ have some of the original KOL bite. They’re matured efforts, not yet matured to blue cheese-standard, though.
Come Around Sundown: This record is special. It really is. It gets none of the acclamation it deserves. The artwork sees a ‘Californian sunset’ in a soothing beachside backdrop, and the music within complements the atmosphere brilliantly. During a recent interview, lead guitarist, Matthew Followill expressed that he longed that the epic ‘The End’ had been made a single. The Promoter disagrees, it’s perfect where it is – like buried treasure on the artworked beach setting. A reward the fans who remained willing to overlook the disaster of the previous offering. The musical range on this record also exhibits the abilities of the KOL as truly standout musicians and efficient (perhaps too efficient) cohesive unit. Other stand out tracks include: ‘Mary’ like an Eddie Rocket’s jukebox favourite and ‘The Immortals’.
Mechanical Bull: Straighten up, Dear Reader. Let’s be up front. This record lived up to its title. It was both mechanical and bull****! Recent interviews have seen drummer Nathan Followill describe the comfort zone they had found themselves in whilst composing this record. A sixth consecutive offering with the same production team. It’s a station, a milestone of staleness. There is one memorable track, however. The Sex Pistol’s infused: ‘Don’t Matter’, and yet, even this track leaves something behind – the opportunity to scare the pants off people as ‘Charmer’ had done before.
And so, what of WALLS.
This record is a joy! The regressive consistency of Angelo Petraglia’s production has been changed. Consequently, the KOL have returned with a much deeper offering. Markus Dravs was a very tough taskmaster. He whipped the KOL boys from their comfortable living, put bleedin’ manners on them. It would not be an understatement to say he has saved them., as a musical outfit, at least.
They should be proud of this record. In the best possible sense, it has a feel of 80’s depression. 80’s beauty. 80’s despair. Echoes of Joy Division, Bryan Ferry, Fleetwood Mac and George Harrison abound. And yet KOL have put their signature all over it. The record is NOT perfect. But that’s what makes it perfect. This record shows that there is so much more to come from the KOL and it’s something to look forward to. Yes, the opening track: ‘Waste a Moment’ is a radio-friendly mainstream fillet, but this is balanced with the depressing brilliance of ‘Over’. ‘Muchacho’ is a self-proclaimed favoured offering from the band themselves and ‘Wild’ uplifting guitar rift that the listener has heard many times before, and yet never before. Magical.
With WALLS, the KOL have proved they have ‘something about them’. They have cajones. They have substance. They have guts.