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Kings Of Leon – ‘Can We Please Have Fun’ review: rugged but reserved

May 10th, 2024

It feels like it’s been a long time since Kings Of Leon really revelled in recording an album together. Ever since ‘Only By The Night’ shot the Followills to the stadium-straddling heights of their peers (The Killers, Muse) in 2008, the demand for chart-hogging hits appeared to dictate the next four albums to the point where even the Tennessee quartet cried, ‘enough already!’ Well that, and the fact they finally broke free from their long-term record deal with RCA after 2021’s ‘When You See Yourself’, opening the door for them to craft a record bereft of uncompromising demands and pressure.

Thus the title for album number nine ‘Can We Please Have Fun’ started off as a “frustrated request” from frontman Caleb Followill to get back to making music that “made us happy”. Speaking to NME, they said offers for anniversary tours – not their bag, apparently – “pushed us to where we are right now” and the desire to “make something great”. It then became their daily work mantra as they freely laid down tracks at Nashville’s Dark Horse studio with Kid Harpoon, whose recent credits include Harry Styles and Maggie Rogers.

Many fans will be wondering if this is finally the record where KOL return to the dirty rock‘n’roll roots that we fell in love with in the first place? Well, yes and no. Kick-ass comeback single ‘Mustang’ finds Caleb back to his howling old, shouty self as he sings: “Oh there’s a mustang in the city and it’s calling me out,” over rollicking guitar riffs. It’s a throwback to the sound of their 2007 opus ‘Because Of The Times’ and it’s by far the best song they’ve released since ‘Sex On Fire’.

The gut-punching ‘Nothing To Do’ meanwhile, comes on like a sledge-hammering Pixies number with its squalling riffs and tumbling guitar tempo; ‘Hesitation Generation’ channels that same fiery energy as it throws up a stomping cheeky nod to The Velvet Underground.

And that’s kind of it for your balls-to-the-wall rock‘n’roll. The rest of the record skirts more familiar anthemic territory which at times works well on spine-tingling opener ‘Ballerina Radio’ and the driving Strokes meets Joy Division ‘Rainbow Ball’. But it falls flat on drab ballads like ‘Ease Me On’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Bleeding’. The excellent ‘Split Screen’ does redress the balance a little bit with its textured guitars but the album as a whole leaves you aching for more songs like ‘Mustang’.

This is easily KOL’s most promising, liberated record for over a decade but still surprisingly restrained in places. Can they have fun? Yes it appears, in places, but they could have had a whole lot more.

Details

Kings Of Leon – ‘Can We Please Have Fun’

  • Release date: May 10, 2024
  • Record label: Capitol Records
This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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