Album Review: Kings of Leon – When You See Yourself (RCA)


The former Reading and Leeds headliners are back with a not-so-earth-shattering 8th album.

Kings of Leon - When You See Yourself | Reviews | DIY

To say I’m not the biggest Kings of Leon fan would be a fair statement. It’s not that I have, or have ever had, a visceral negative reaction to their music. I’ve just never really been interested in them past a handful of songs. Sure, I remember liking Only by the Night over a decade ago, and Radioactive still gets some playlist rotation from me every now and again, but to be honest, when I decided to give KoL’s newest release a listen I really didn’t know what to expect from it.

Look, it would be all too easy to jump on a band that’s clearly past their peak and tear into this album, but to be honest it really doesn’t deserve that. It sounds exactly like i’d imagined it to be honest. The sound of a rock bands 8th studio album, after nearly 20 years of making music. The production is understandably pretty stella, with vocals and drums that consistently sound pretty impressive, but unfortunately, as is common with 20 years of music making, there usually comes some sort of artistic stagnation, and I wasn’t surprised to hear it in abundance on When You See Yourself . So many of the songs serve exactly the same purpose, and hearing this, I found myself asking questions like “If ‘The Bandit’ exists, then what the fuck is ‘A Wave’ or ‘Golden Restless Age’ doing here?” Time and time again it sounds like the same note is being hit, which is a shame as there are clearly ideas that could’ve been made into something more exciting here.

The opening track, when you see yourself, are you far away? sounds like I haven’t gone a day without listening to the last Kings of Leon release, when in actual fact the last album of theirs I heard was back in 2010! On one hand it is familiar, but it also surprises and impresses me that the sounds they were creating are still as dreamy and cacophonous as I remembered. This unfortunately doesn’t last long though. It soon falls from something that sounds like the bands attempt at their own Given to the Wild, to a lazy phone in. Over and over again the same themes, both sonically and lyrically are explored, and not in a “let’s make a concept album” kind of way, but in a “well shit, let’s do a song just like the last one but change a few things” kind of way. 

The album ultimately ends with the incredibly flat Fairytale that offers little in the way of… well, anything. A clear attempt at making a nice sounding acoustic lullaby, but instead just falling at every hurdle, and stirring absolutely nothing in me.

Like I said before, going into this I wasn’t the biggest Kings of Leon fan, but this album still managed to disappoint me. Not because – like so many bands on their 8th album – it was awful – it objectively isn’t – but because the band clearly have something left to give, and it is painfully obvious that time after time a choice was made to take the easy option. After you’ve achieved what KoL have up until this point, I can totally understand. Why, shit?, I would do exactly the same thing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t call it out when I see it happening so blatantly. Sorry KoL, be better.