Tennessee-based rock band Kings of Leon’s seventh album Walls is a streamlined texture-fest that draws on the best moments of their previous records.
The group has suppressed the bourbon-induced slop of their early days but they sound committed to rocking, albeit in a smarter, tighter fashion.
The hint of the garage band that they once were lingers about the edges of songs (Around the World). Kings of Leon get sensitive without losing their drive. They’ve shifted their former primitivism onto a quest for texture and tracks like Find Me find focus with atmospheric chord work and a straight-ahead rhythm.
It’s a logical path for Kings of Leon as their earliest release (Youth and Young Manhood) had unconventional chord work and off-kilter vocals. Producer Markus Dravs (Florence + the Machine, Coldplay) and the group use the uncomplicated nature of the group’s arrangements to experiment within relatable bounds (Reverend). Songs like Muchacho take on a ballad-like spaghetti western vibe and tracks like Conversation Piece show the band’s progression as songwriters. It is a timeless daydream of a track with a melody that highlights the soul in Caleb Followill’s voice. He’s as distinctive a singer as Rod Stewart or Elmer Fudd.
Whether they like it or not, Kings of Leon are standard bearers for that rare beast – the rock band. They keep their rocking honest and on Walls they open up doors to bring in sounds and moods that give their music a depth that rings and reverberates.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest releases in Street Sounds every Friday in The Morning Star.