To me, it seems like only yesterday I was eagerly slotting Mechanical Bull into my laptop. I’d been tantalised by ‘Supersoaker’ and couldn’t wait to hear what Kings of Leon had in store for the rest of the album – and God, was I in for a treat. I hadn’t believed they could improve on Come Around Sundown - the epitome of mellow Southern charm distilled into an understated and sublime package - and yet they’d done exactly that.
"Skeptics and die-hards might yearn for the angsty young Caleb responsible for ‘Soft’ and ‘Charmer’, but frankly I’m ready to put the screechier side of the Kings to bed"
So imagine my surprise to discover they’ve gone and trumped themselves again with WALLS. The boys have been teasing their seventh album through Twitter and Instagram snippets for months now, with viral marketing challenges to represent the number seven as creatively as possible, and four of the album’s tracks on Youtube by release, sustaining a hype upon which the finished product has well and truly delivered. ‘Waste a Moment’ brought a strong, energetic start to the excitement, with the titular track ‘Walls’ thereafter bringing the sensitive, melancholic side we’ve come to know and love in the Tennessee-born Followill brothers. Skeptics and die-hards might yearn for the angsty young Caleb responsible for ‘Soft’ and ‘Charmer’, but frankly I’m ready to put the screechier side of the Kings to bed; like a fine wine, the band have matured wonderfully, but also like a fine wine, there are always people who prefer a fiver bottle from Tesco’s. Or something.
The thing is, if you enjoyed Sundown and Mechanical Bull, there’s no way you could possibly dislike WALLS. It’s lively and mellow in all the right places, and they’ve lost absolutely none of the abundant charisma that’s endeared them to fans all over the world in their 13 year run. But if you thought the band died with Only by the Night, then nothing here will please you. Also, get over yourself. Alright, that’s a bit harsh, but still. Highlights from WALLS include ‘Muchacho’, a melancholic ballad with a bossa nova beat that’s perfect for a moody walk into uni; ‘Conversation Piece’ brings a dramatic flair that shows off Caleb’s legendary whiskey-voiced range; mention must also go to ‘Reverend’s gorgeous bookending melodic hook.
Admittedly, calling highlights is a little unfair; the album has no weak tracks, and each stands with a character of its own without compromising the tight overall sound. WALLS is an album of motion and emotion, of homesickness and nostalgia, of reflection and progress. This couldn’t be a better fit, as although Kings of Leon goes from strength to strength with no signs of slowing down, there remains the notion that their thoughts are firmly fixed on their origins. In ‘Wild’, we hear “you come round, I come a-running”: a distinctive throwback to ‘On Call’ from the Times era, ‘Muchacho’ echoes ‘Mi Amigo’ thematically if not aurally, and Caleb’s relationship with his ever-distant rural homeland remains as much a source of tension for the aging rockstar as it has been since the hidden track in ‘Holy Roller Novocaine.’
Ultimately, WALLS is an album that gives exactly what it promises: an escalation from a band who can only go up. Only a shame it hadn’t come out a few months ago – it would have been an absolutely perfect summer album.