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REVIEW: Kings Of Leon – ‘When You See Yourself’ (RCA)


In a sentence:

Debates about the nature of its release aside, what’s more relevant is that ‘When You See Yourself’ is an extremely bland and predictable offering from an extremely bland and predictable band.

When You See Yourself is the eighth record from Nashville rock outfit Kings Of Leon. Starting off around twenty years ago as purveyors of garage rock infused with the sound of the south, their hallmark has evolved into a more alternative, arena rock sound. When You See Yourself follows 2016’s iffy and lukewarm WALLS, which saw the Followills go from a relatively fast-paced band to the calmer and more nuanced one they currently are.

For nearly 15 years now, KoL have been every critics’ punching bag up, criticising the band’s decision to trade in their hedonistic ‘Southern Strokes’ identity for bland, identikit post-U2 arena rock for 2008’s Only By The Night and its 2011 successor Come Around Sundown. Despite that critical fall from grace, they have continuously enjoyed commercial success which has been a courtesy of the catchy and anthemic guitar riffs coupled with captivating singalongs and sleek, mainstream production.

With all of the background information about the out of the way, let us talk about the new project. Kings Of Leon started teasing When You See Yourself way back in March of 2020, then teasing five songs and releasing two: ‘The Bandit’ and ‘100,000 People’. But the decision that made this album so controversial was the recent announcement that it would be the first record to be sold as a NFT.

In summary: most cryptocurrency tokens are fungible meaning they can be used to buy products like actual money but NFT stands for ‘non-fungible token’ which is a kind of cryptocurrency where instead of money equivalent, the token contains collectables like art, paintings or music which is stored online. In KoL’s, there are three kinds of NFT’s that are available – the first a special album package, the second offering live show perks and the third containing exclusive audio-visual art. There are also ‘golden tickets’ which unlock additional perks like front row seats for life, a driver, concierge, a pre-concert meet-up with the group, VIP lounge access and every item of merchandise available. What this says about how Kings Of Leon perceive the value of art and how fans should access it, is of course an absolute gift to their critics, but by-the-by for our purposes.

The album starts off with ‘When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away’, a cacophony of gorgeous guitar arpeggios that are all tension and no release, leading to the epiphany: “The pleasures of this life I’m told, will spit you out in the middle of the road.” It is followed by ‘The Bandit’, the lead single of the album that picks up the tempo and channels the energy of KoL classics like ‘The Bucket’ and ‘King Of The Rodeo’ with its groovy and stirring riffs and vivid lyrics of the storytelling of southern tales. ‘100,000 People’ is the co-lead track of the album which details the idea of “Stray from the heart the more you know / The more you look the less you see / The more you see the less you know.” We also encounter a song about a slow burning romance layered with a message about global warming on ‘Claire & Eddie’, but the meaning gets lost in mellow country-rock.

Needless to say, it’s time for yet another critic to gang up on Kings Of Leon. For a very brief moment at the start, When You See Yourself promises a new sound, a new identity for the group to take on, but unfortunately the album is only a very slight step up from WALLS sonically. The latter half is disengaging due its thematic inconsistency and unexciting instrumentals. The Followills’ lyrics are incomprehensible at times and clichéd at others. In short, it’s exactly the kind of album one would expect Kings Of Leon to make at this point in their career. (5/10) (Aryan Agarwal)

Listen to When You See Yourself by Kings Of Leon here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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