Album cover for Kings of Leon When You See Yourself

Album Review: Kings of Leon – When You See Yourself

It’s not you, it’s me.

My conclusion for just not being able to get along with Kings of Leon.

I did try. When I prepped for their Mechanical Bull concert a number of years ago I dove into their catalog, even found a setlist or two of likely songs and eventually convinced myself the live show would bring everything I was hearing to life. Ultimately it was them not me as Kings of Leon looked bored, experienced technical difficulties, Caleb Followill’s vocals went south after just a few songs and he even commented on the lack of energy a quarter the way through. Not sure if he meant the band or audience as neither seemed interested in what was happening on stage.

So, we went our separate ways and I didn’t even bother with their 2016 release WALLS even with the super cool cover. But I thought I’d give them a second chance with their eighth studio album When You See Yourself, out today. How neat as Kings of Leon become the first band to use a non-fungible token (NFT) a type of cryptocurrency that unlocks fun things for fans. Not even sure how that works, but things don’t look too promising even with the potential for presents.


Kings of Leon When You See Yourself Album Review

The slow and at times lifeless When You See Yourself sounds more experimental than anything else that typifies their past sound. Don’t expect much in terms of an uplifting pace, significant rock guitar with solos and chords that move, or well-crafted harmonies that leave an impression. Too often a melody cruises along only for a total disruption like a wrench thrown into the spokes of the song tossing you over the album cover.

When You See Yourself opens with the title track of sorts called “When You See Yourself Are You Far Away “ in a great Coldplay like bass line delivered by Jared Followill that makes this one pop until it gets weird with these kaleidoscopic keyboard effects. Caleb Followill sounds like Bruce Springsteen at times in the slow introspective walk of “100,000 People” but they interrupt the flow again, and again with some out of place synths and eventually the song repeats until the end. The keyboards sound like an afterthought. Here throw some synths in, call it good, someone said.

“Echoing” suffers the same fate with a driving drum cadence pushing this one forward with hope until the almost dead stop of the chorus. And if you can get through the first two slog minutes of “A Wave” you get an injection of energy until the band slows things down again.

“The Bandit” powers through on melody with broad guitar strokes but the end production drowns out the vocals preventing this one from standing out. The best track in “Golden Restless Age” begins and ends strong as does “Claire & Eddie” with its easy stroll and flowing vocals that work with the provided music.

The rest doesn’t offer much substance. “Time in Disguise” has moments, the tribal drum rhythms of “Supermarket” along with the distant guitar, at best, provide a mesmerizing last few minutes that in some respects brings a sense of ease but only if Followill would stop repeating the “I’m going nowhere” chorus. A great bass line can’t save “Stormy Weather” and those opening vocals really grate. Finally, When You See Yourself ends with “Fairytale” that has promise but sounds more like filler.

Caleb Followill’s baritone genuinely has a unique pitch. It just doesn’t work in the context of Kings of Leon, at least on this album. He sounds sad, a good emotional tool when singing and songwriting, but he actually comes across as truly sad like a lone wolf who has lost his pack. But instead of conjuring empathy and the listener hoping he eventually finds his way home you want to yell out the window in a futile effort to get a moment of silence.

The Followills who make up Kings of Leon with singer Caleb Followill also on rhythm guitar, his brother Jared on bass and keyboards, brother Nathan on drums and cousin Matthew on lead guitar, indeed exhibit a gift of music but the 11-song 51 minute When You See Yourself could use an alternative sonic ear to help with song structure and melodic guidance plus some help on the engineering side.

Grade: C

Kings of Leon When You See Yourself Songs:

  1. When You See Yourself Are You Far Away
  2. The Bandit
  3. 100,000 people
  4. Stormy Weather
  5. A Wave
  6. Golden Restless Age
  7. Time in Disguise
  8. Supermarket
  9. Claire & Eddie
  10. Echoing
  11. Fairytale

8 thoughts on “Album Review: Kings of Leon – When You See Yourself

  1. I could never wrap my head around these guys at all. Nothing personal Leon sorry lol. Good on you for giving it the try.

  2. It’s not you, it’s them. How can a band go from doing some really great stuff, to doing nothing memorable so fast. They had one, maybe two albums of some interesting stuff and then to I completely don’t care to listen to them ever again.

  3. I haven’t listened to a new Kings of Leon album in a while. I think they’ve all claimed at the time of their release that they’re back to their roots, but they’re miles away from those first two albums. Shame, cause they really were into something for a moment.

    1. agreed. funny thing I started listening to WALLS and I was enjoying it, at least much more than the new one. something is there they need to harness it somehow.

      1. I haven’t even given Walls more than a cursory listen. I think the last one I made any effort with was Mechanical Bull, as a pal had said that it was a return to form. It didn’t do much for me.

Comments are closed.