When You See Yourself

Kings Of Leon

RCA, 2021


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Returning after a five-year absence, Kings of Leon deliver an eighth album that continues their slide into ruminative, mid-tempo middle age.

If you’ve grown up with this band, no doubt the melancholy melodies and lyrics will play well, but those fans may also miss the occasional drama and fire that the guys once possessed. The 11 songs here tend to bleed into one another, one pleasantly downbeat track after the next, setting a mood but not elevating the listener in any fashion. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

To be fair, that’s not the goal. The band essentially said in an interview they are no longer the guys from Youth & Young Manhood (or “Sex On Fire”); both they and the world have changed since 2003. As is custom with artists facing mortality, the lyrics to “Fairytale,” “Time In Disguise” and “Golden Restless Age” all circle around aging and the passage of time. “Time In Disguise” is the best of that bunch, with an unexpected instrumental midsection and a lovely, lifting chorus with just enough drama.

The best song here bar none is “The Bandit,” which distills everything good about these guys into four minutes. But it’s an anomaly for an album that asks different questions and explores the answers with layered, sometimes-indistinguishable sonic textures. All four band members are husbands and fathers now, and when you reach that stage in your life, your philosophies and questions tend to shift.

That’s not the sort of heady subject matter that a casual fan will care about, which is why When You See Yourself is meant more for close listening – maybe with headphones, where the production details can be picked out clearly, such as on the bridge of “Claire & Eddie.”

The other rousing moment of excitement here is “Echoing,” which injects a burst of guitar adrenaline in between the mood pieces, and will no doubt play well in concert. The band has come a long way from its Southern and arena-rock days, and even if When You See Yourself isn’t the album most fans were clamoring for, it sounds like the album they needed to make at this time in their lives, and one that fans of a certain age will be able to relate to when they’re feeling contemplative. It’s just a shame the songs aren’t a little more distinct and that many lack the beating heart that drives KOL’s best work. But “The Bandit” for sure deserves to be in your playlist.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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