It’s time to start feeling dated when you realize that Kings of Leon released their first album over 13 years ago. On their seventh album WALLS, Kings of Leon returned to Los Angeles to record in an apparent effort to recapture the magic of their first two albums. Yet the rowdy Southern ‘kick the bucket’ charisma that pervades on an album like Aha Shake Heartbreak still eludes the band, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. KOL have had their stratospheric highs as a band and spirit-crushing lows, yet they still persevere. While WALLS, an acronym for “We Are Like Love Songs,” may come off as too polished and sanitized at times, the brilliance of the Followill songwriting shines through and makes it a very straightforward and listenable album.
WALLS pops off with its first single, the frantically fast-paced “Waste A Moment”, which combines driving drums and Caleb’s signature Oklahoma-styled, coyote-whelp vocals. The track “Reverend”, a tribute to the late country singer Blaze Foley, ebbs and flows with winding guitars and a catchy chorus. It is in the center cut piece of the ten track album that you find the most substance, starting with “Find Me”,that has the urgency, conviction, and simplicity of past KOL songs. The ominous build up in the track “Over” is captivating and echoes with arena-sized production. “Muchacho” is an ambling country lick with Latin percussion that has a subtle charm to it.
The gravity and serious songwriting settle like sediment towards the bottom of the album with the title track The only ballad on the album, the lyrics don’t get overly complex, but the repetition of ‘When the walls come down’ does build into a powerful mantra that reverberates in Followill’s voice. WALLS marks a period of relative stability for KOL. One of the bands more famous quotes is “Drugs ruined us. Now its time to be huge.” Well they certainly became huge, and then in-fighting and booze almost ended them again. Now the band has proven they can whether almost anything fate can throw at them and still write a decent album. While Walls isn’t redefining rock, or even the band’s sound, it does prove KOL isn’t phoning in or backing down just yet.