The Kings of Leon (KOL) are a highly divisive band to say the least. Ever since ‘Only By The Night’ (namely ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’) the Followill boys have been dividing opinions worldwide. Some say ‘Sex on Fire was the death of the KOL, others say it’s their peak musically (for the record I’m somewhere in the middle).
This article is purely opinion based, and yes my opinion will be biased somewhat as the Kings of Leon are one of my all-time favourite bands. However, musical opinion is purely subjective and opinions don’t keep you warm at night. So I’ll preface this article in saying that a lot of people won’t agree with my rankings of the band’s seven albums. Not even my brother (who is the only person I know who loves the band more than me) agrees with my rankings.
Here it is, the Nashville lads’ albums ranked from 7 to 1.
7. ‘Come Around Sundown’ (2010)
This is by no means a terrible album. It’s just in comparison to the band’s six other LPs it fails to meet those lofty standards. There are still some great tracks on it; ‘The End’, ‘Pyro’, ‘Pony Up’, and ‘Pickup Truck’ stand out on what is an otherwise somewhat lackluster release.
It’s the follow up to the worldwide smash ‘Only By The Night’ and it feels like the band had lost their passion and edge with ‘Come Around Sundown’. It isn’t a bad album at all (in fact it garnered relatively critical praise and was a huge commercial success), it just happens to be the seventh best album by a band who has released a stream of successful and acclaimed records.
6. ‘Mechanical Bull’ (2013)
‘Mechanical Bull’ saw the Kings regain some of their groove back. The edge and charisma the Followill boys have shown since ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ is quite prevalent in this album. Songs like ‘Family Tree’, ‘Supersoaker’, ‘Don’t Matter’ and ‘Coming Back Again’ signify this best. The sixth album by the Kings of Leon is the perfect indicator and prequel of what was to come in their most release, ‘WALLS’.
5. ‘WALLS’ (2016)
‘WALLS’ is the best thing the band have released since ‘Only By The Night’, and there is a number of reasons why that is so. The first is that it oozes all things that have made us love the band; great lyricism, punchy choruses and even better musicianship. All the boys are back to their best; Caleb’s complex lyricism, Matt’s creative solos, Jared’s sleek bass lines, Nathan’s powerful and rhythmic drumming – it all comes to the forefront. The harmony between the band is back.
4. ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ (2003)
The debut album by the KOL was a game changer. It came out at a time where music was almost at its peak commercially with bands like The Strokes and White Stripes enjoying widespread success. The timing could not have been more perfect for these shaggy haired Tennessee boys to release their first LP. It’s very hard to rank this album as fourth as it has some of my favourite songs by the band. Tracks like ‘Molly’s Chambers’, ‘Red Morning Light’, ‘Holy Roller Novocaine’, ‘Trani’, ‘Spiral Staircase’ and ‘California Waiting’ are all instant classics.
3. ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’ (2004)
Many Kings of Leon fans have this as their favourite album by the band. Like with ‘Youth and Young Manhood’, I could’ve easily had this in the top two. There is not a single bad song on this album. In fact if I had to list all the good ones I’d be mentioning all twelve tracks. Special mention however must go to ‘The Bucket’, ‘Milk’, ‘Four Kicks’ and ‘Slow Night So Long’.
2. ‘Only By The Night’ (2008)
This one is going to ruffle a lot of people’s feathers, though in my mind ‘Only By The Night’ is a modern classic – there’s no disputing that. Many ‘older’ KOL followers will say this is when the band lost it, but to put it bluntly those fans are ignorant hipsters.
It is a perfectly cohesive album with all ten tracks flowing seamlessly, one between the other. From the stunning opener in ‘Closer’ to the heart-wrenching finale in ‘Cold Desert’ this album is near perfection.
‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’ are the songs that took the band into the stratosphere and for those for hate them for gaining that notoriety, they are simply that – haters.
1.‘Because Of The Times’ (2007)
This is Kings of Leon’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, their ‘White Album’, it’s a band so effortlessly perfect and in their element. ‘Arizona’ is just a work of art and with a plethora of beautiful tracks on this album it’d be a travesty to single out just one or two, but I will. ‘Arizona’ and ‘McFearless’ are for the embodiment of this great band. Beautiful and moving, wild and rocking – it showcases the two sides of KOL I love.
This may be a subjective and opinion-based article but if you can’t recognize the objective greatness of this album, then I’m sorry your opinion ‘Don’t Matter’.
Kings of Leon are going to continue to divide opinion left, right and centre until the day they stop making music. Once you reach mega rockstar status that’s always the case (think of Muse as a classic example). Album number seven shows that KOL may be re-establishing themselves musically and it’s good to see rock music back on the public agenda.