Time Waits For No Man
Following on from 2016’s Walls, Kings of Leon’s eighth album, When You See Yourself, (5 March 2021; RCA records) is an upbeat offering full of catchy and stimulating guitar-based tunes from brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared, and cousin Matthew Followill.
Producer Markus Dravs (Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons) is again on duty to ensure that the final product is both coherent and polished.
The lead single, The Bandit, released in January 2021, is one of the definite standout tracks, with its earworm guitar riffs and lyrics of macho swashbuckling adventures that strongly evoke the band’s bygone days. The sound is distorted with lead guitarist Matthew playing what looks like his cool Epiphone Wilshire, at least on the Late Show live version.
The album opens, however, with When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away, which features some lovely broken chords and a lyric that preaches calm reflection, a philosophy the band has not always been known for: “The pleasures of this life I’m told, will spit you out in the middle of the road,” Caleb intones.
Next up is the love song 100,000 People, but this is bettered by the funky bassline of Stormy Weather, which is full of soul. Golden Restless Age on the other hand features slashing guitars and a lyric that revels in nostalgia: “You’re only passing through a form of you, I look in your eyes and there’s a rage,” Caleb sings.
Supermarket begins with a lovely bass rhythm before the guitars and vocals gently enter. The lyrics revolve around the things we do to get by when life gets tough and talks about ‘the long hard road’ we’re on: “I’m going nowhere, if you’ve got the time.”
The country-driven Claire and Eddie represents a shift in pace and theme on the album, as it addresses climate change. The lyric “Fire’s gonna rage if people don’t change” alternates with a nod to an unspecified romantic relationship, and makes for a refreshing change.
The penultimate track Echoing is an inoffensive middle of the road rock track; while the album closes with the wistful, introspective and slightly sentimental Fairytale.
In part Kings of Leon became a huge stadium act on the back of a bunch of tracks full of masculine bravado, but the years have passed and they’re now moving in what seems like a completely different direction. “We know a lot of people would love us to come out with long hair and moustaches, to be the guys from ‘Youth & Young Manhood’ again, but we’re a different band now,” Caleb succinctly said recently. That will inevitably disappoint some fans, but as the old saying goes, ‘time and tide waits for no man.’