Sorry Caleb, I'm going to "say it's over" so you don't have to – this is a simply uninspiring record that belies the Kings Of Leon pedigree.
An acronym for We Are Like Love Songs, WALLS continues Kings Of Leon’s bizarre theme of five syllable titles. It also continues to adhere to their very safe formula of huge, slightly cheesy stadium-sized choruses without actually bringing much new to the table.
Obviously, it’s a system that’s worked before – lead single ‘Waste A Moment‘ is very remiscent of ‘Sex On Fire,’ 2008’s rock answer to ‘Closer.’ Yet, the promising energy generated by opening WALLS with it is not sustained, with out-of-place whistling and Latin sounds in ‘Muchacho’ representing a middle to the album that is more than just a little strange.
Unlike their previous work (and not to say that lyrics have ever been their strong point), WALLS‘ lyrics too are a letdown. The bland, emotionless words drawled by Caleb Followill are uninspiring, showing a childish take on masculinity (“Oh, a man ain’t a man unless he’s fought the fight” while repeating “When the walls come down”) in the title track, or the strange “He was my favourite friend of all” on ‘Muchacho.’ Perhaps it’s naïve to expect more from a band that does simplicity best, as demonstrated by lovely rhythm guitars and a simpler, more classic approach in ‘Around The World.’
It’s all a bit overdone, dragging on but not actually getting anywhere. Some of its experimentation does work, like the delightful guitars in the otherwise wholly bland and slightly dreary ‘Reverend’ and ‘Conversation Piece.’ Considering how slick and engineered for radio this album is, the lack of big hooks is more than a little bizarre – their huge success in 2008 was no accident, however now it feels like they’re trying to please everyone and not succeeding for any audience. For every lovely melody hidden under droning lyrics (Caleb does make ‘Waste A Moment’ and ‘Conversation Piece’ reasonably more exciting with some drawn out vocals) and Markus Dravs production, there’s a fumbling bassline to contend with.
Though collectively we’re a little sick of poppy synths and echoing guitars, this is not the rock album that ‘Waste A Moment’ had us expecting. Not even bolstered by a cheesy ballad like Only By The Night‘s ‘Use Somebody,’ WALLS is a dreary
WALLS is out now via RCA