Kings of Leon 'WALLS' Review: The band's gone dad rock, which is tragic but unsurprising

Kings of Leon 'WALLS' Review: The band's gone dad rock, which is tragic but unsurprising
Source: AP
Source: AP

When the Kings of Leon first began teasing WALLS toward the end of last year, the band all but assured fans alienated by the Kings' increasingly stadium-rock sound that they'd be making a return to their rawhide country roots. 

"Our first two albums we recorded in L.A., so we're going to try to go back and see if it inspires us," lead singer Caleb Followill told the Associated Press. The critical consensus seemed to be that they were indeed moving in such a direction, and it felt right. The title alone of their last album, 2013's Mechanical Bull, recalls a staple of country dives, and had outlets like Entertainment Weekly extolling the band for "recapturing" their earlier sound. However, it felt "recaptured" in the way one would corner and subdue an escaped wild animal. It felt far tamer than the feral, dive-bar rock that made Kings of Leon famous. But that was understandable: The Kings of Leon are dads now

With WALLS, the band's seventh studio album (the name an acronym for We Are Like Love Songs), the Kings of Leon have dug themselves even more firmly in dad-rock territory. Maybe not quite so ostentatiously as on Beyond the Night, where tracks like "Use Somebody" seemed like they were designed in a lab to inspire chaperones to borrow their kids' lighters and hoist them in the air. 

But the sound is polished, even slick. It doesn't quite recall the like of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers so much as that of the Foo Fighters. But even much of the Foo Fighters' work — widely credited for leading the charge to make rock safe — boasts more edge than WALLS.

A photo posted by (@) on

Part of that is probably due to producer Markus Dravs — whose past producer credits include Coldplay and Mumford & Sons — who seems to have gone to great lengths to neuter the Kings' sound. Tracks like "Overare utterly derivative, with a fuzzy bass loop backing shmaltzy lyrics.

I see the grass beneath me
I smell the wind and sky
And think to myself
"Don't pass me by"

It's a sad diary entry of a song that almost recalls "California Waiting," one of the band's first big hits. But the difference here is that back in the early aughts, lead singer Caleb Followill seemed content to slur and drawl his way through lyrics in a way that intensified the jangly, distorted guitars. It's just not quite the same when we can actually understand what he's singing.

Other songs on the album delve deep into pop territory, perfectly suited to advertisements and department store playlists. The lead guitar on on "Conversation Piece," for instance, is precise — but that only makes it easier to discern how plucky and repetitive his melody is. 

There's not a song on the album that doesn't put forth the sense that each component would sound better if the musician in question had a few less fucks to give and possibly another beer before recording. But a few songs have a healthy twang. Followhill seems to let himself go on "Eyes on You." And the album's opener, "Waste A Moment," kicks the album off with a pounding bass and a good kick of fuzz.

But on the whole you get the sense that these are dads now — like Jagger and McCartney and all the other great rock scions. They have bills to pay and radio airtime to chase; the more squeaky-clean the riff, the more likely it is to nail down that light beer or car commercial placement. But the Kings of Leon haven't earned their striped socks or tie clips in quite the same way as any of the names that headlined the lovingly named "Dadchella" fest back in October. Because they've gone to this level of dad this soon, the Kings of Leon's days feel numbered. Unless they turn their sound around — again — they'll be clipping coupons in no time.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

James Dennin

James is a staff writer covering money and millennials. Send your tips and your money problems to jdennin@mic.com.

MORE FROM

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.

‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later’ proves sometimes it’s OK to skip the reunion

If you're looking to trim down your Netflix consumption, start by avoiding this pointless sequel series.

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.

‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later’ proves sometimes it’s OK to skip the reunion

If you're looking to trim down your Netflix consumption, start by avoiding this pointless sequel series.