Despite emerging on the music scene in the early 2000s in hippy style dress with a strong Nashville sound to their rock style, it was the Brit’s who first embraced the Followills, not the Americans. It was only when they toned down this sound on LP number four, Only by the Night did their home country start taking notice.
Chart success has also been much slower; it was only their last, their seventh LP Walls which became Kings of Leon’s first US Billboard Top 100 chart-topper. Initially due for release before the COVID outbreak, whatever happens, Kings of Leon will always be able to look back on this LP with success as it’s the first one they have recorded “without any fistfights”.
Other than Caleb promising to be more personal with his lyrics, When You See Yourself does not fall into a specific theme as their previous two efforts (Mechanical Bull and Walls), which went in a heavier direction. Opening with “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away”, Caleb more than promises to share his vulnerability with the lyrics “This long goodbye is overdue. You never came where I called on you” with the chorus “One more night, one more night will you stay here. One more night, one more night we’ll be safe dear”. Whilst the electro ballad keys, with gentle percussion beat and light funk guitar riffs produce a pleasant sound; they don’t sync as expected with the sensitivity of the lyrics.
Like the opener, “100,000 People” shares many characteristics, such as the almost esoteric synths. Whilst there is a bassline, it’s slightly too rudimentary and monotonous. The overall cacophony does not captivate what is essentially a love song with the following lyrics: “Still nothing makes me feel the way You do…” where “you do” is repeated another 15 times.
Where “100,000 People” and “When You See Yourself, Are You Far Away” don’t naturally musically link up with the lyrics, “A Wave” does. With impressive standout lyrics, including: “Everybody has an opinion: I don’t likе most of them”, this piano-based ballad adroitly uses the zephyr and is enriched when the drums and organs also kick in two minutes in. Caleb and company also get it right on “Time In Disguise”, “a song about the red-carpet life the band stumbled uncomfortably” through the medium of soft rock with light eighties and synth tinged sounds. Unlike on previous tracks, the subtly of the synths is welcome here on this melodic tune.
The raunchier and rockier tracks begin with the sophomore track “The Bandit”, which has an old Western vibe. It tells the story of an old bounty hunter. Long-standing fans of this band will elate at the resemblance to the material on their Youth and Young Manhood debut; however, there is also a sense of collective wisdom, learning from one’s mistakes, that one senses across both the lyrics and music.
Whilst “Stormy Weather” doesn’t follow so succinctly with the Nashville sound, the penultimate track, “Echoing”, does, it is not only the most instant, raw and upbeat; it also allows a home for sensitive anxieties to be expressed through the following lyrics: “My heart’s hard of hearing My head’s full of sand Feet point both directions if you need a hand Blackwater reflection Lost in a city park I can’t find my way through the dark”. Mellow acoustic playout “Fairy tale” elegantly concludes LP number eight with distorted, deep piano keys, with confident, prominent electro fused string sounds from the mid-section, which makes up for when they could not fully reach their potential earlier on across the LP.
For millennials, especially British millennials, the Kings of Leon has more than proved their worth through their first two LP’s. The commercial success of their fourth was the icing on the cake. Provided they make a timely return to the festival circuit when it is next possible, their legacy is guaranteed. The songs across When You See Yourself, where the lyrics and music are in unison with the often shy frontman Caleb painting a more intimate portrait of himself, will undoubtedly prove to be additional arrows to Kings of Leon’s bow of success.