They're back, and they're on fire. At least, that's what
would have you believe. Effortless and elegant, the first single and song on the seventh Kings of Leon album sounds exactly like the Nashville rockers should in 2016.
With its soaring guitar riffs and a sweeping "woah-oh" chorus, you can easily imagine screaming along with it, and spilling most of your beer, at an upcoming open air summer music festival. Auckland City Limits, we're looking at you.
Reverend, the album's second song, is even better, with Caleb Followill's vocals snarling over his cousin Matthew's lead guitar riff. The fact it's based on a true tragedy - Google the curious case of country singer Blaze Foley when you get a moment - makes it all the more potent.
It's a shame, then, that the rest of Walls can't match those high standards. In the build-up to its release, the Followills have talked of leaving their comfort zone, finding themselves, getting back to their roots.
If you think that indicates a return to their debut, 2003's rollicking Youth & Young Manhood, you'd be wrong.
Instead, Walls follows the diminishing returns of 2010's overly relaxed effort Come Around Sundown, and 2013's substandard Mechanical Bull.
Those opening moments are all show, a blast of sonic bluster before the 10-track album disperses into random mode. As catchy as it is, Around the World sounds like the kind of B-grade beachside reggae-rock that should have been on Come Around Sundown, while the soapy arena antics of Find Me and Eyes On You are barely worth repeat listening, let alone mentioning. Wild is anything but, and Conversation Piece, should have been left unsaid.
"Oh, don't say it's over," growls Caleb on Over, a disturbed death dance that serves as the album's dark centrepiece. "I know it's how this here story ends ... I'm crossed and ready to face the crowd."
Ironically, flirting with their own demise and eyeballing the grim reaper delivers the band's best song in years. If they'd taken that attitude to the rest of it, this might have become the comeback album they really needed to deliver.
Kings of Leon - Walls
Southern rockers still struggling with mid-career slump