REVIEW: Kings of Leon Seemingly Have Fun on ‘Can We Please Have Fun’

Videos by American Songwriter

KINGS OF LEON
CAN WE PLEASE HAVE FUN
(Capitol)
♫♫♫1/2

RATING CHART:
1 note – Pass
1.5 notes – Mediocre
2 notes – Average
2.5 notes – Above Average
3 notes – Good
3.5 – notes Great
4 notes – Excellent
4.5 notes – Exceptional
5 notes – Classic

Judging from the unusual title of this, Kings of Leon’s ninth release, you’d think the quartet hasn’t enjoyed the past 20-plus years of a remarkably successful career. Sure, being in a rock band is hard work, but with eight Grammy nominations (including three wins) and 20 million albums sold, things could be a lot worse. 

The enduring band of three Followill brothers and their cousin makes up one of the most popular family-based rock units ever to graduate from garages to Madison Square Garden-sized arenas. They headline festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, too. Has it not been any fun?

Frontman Caleb Followill says about the project, “It was the most enjoyable record I’ve ever been a part of. It’s like we allowed ourselves to be musically vulnerable.” Perhaps recording in their home city of Nashville created a more relaxed studio vibe. Or maybe it was due to new producer Kid Harpoon (Florence + The Machine, Miley Cyrus). 

Regardless, this is a wildly diverse release. It features prickly indie rockers like “Rainbow Ball,” soulful offerings such as the flowing “Actual Daydream,” softer, more intimate selections with a slightly retro feel like “Ease Me On,” and a return to the Kings’ garage-like aggression on “Nothing to Do,” perhaps the set’s most raging and punked-out performance. 

Singer Caleb supplies heartfelt work on the touching “Don’t Stop the Bleeding” and delivers a memorably hooky chorus for “Actual Daydream” as guitars waft and hover around his vocal. The meditative “Split Screen” even nods in the direction of older Peter Gabriel, an artsy change balancing the yin-yang dynamics of these dozen songs. 

The tracks, credited to the band collectively, are dense at times and often prove fairly impossible to untangle lyrically—exemplified by the opening “Ballerina Radio” (Radiator burns along your quilt / General admission of your guilt). It all begs the inevitable question: “Are they having fun yet?” 

Based on the evidence at hand, the answer appears to be a resounding “Hell yes.” 

Photo courtesy of Full Coverage

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