On Kings of Leon's 2021 album, When You See Yourself, the Nashville band looked back and took stock of their two-decade rise since their debut, Youth & Young Manhood, arrived in 2003. It was self-assessment from a group that seemed incapable of such reflection once they reached the Top 5 in 2008 with both an album (Only by the Night) and a single ("Use Somebody").

And if the music on When You See Yourself seemed a little too familiar and safe, it was at least an improvement over Walls, the 2016 album that threw itself against bald commercial aspirations that seemed desperate and in contrast with the garage-rock-saviors crowning that greeted them in 2003. (It nonetheless gave Kings of Leon their first No. 1.)

With their ninth LP, Can We Please Have Fun, Kings of Leon draw from each of their past lives for an album that shakes loose from some of the recent constrictions. It's not quite the Second Coming of Youth & Young Manhood fans have been clamoring for since Only by the Night sent them to the big leagues, but at least they appear to take some advice from the new record's title: This is the most unrestricted they've sounded since 2010's Come Around Sundown.

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It's also their most nuanced recording at times, thanks in part to producer Kid Harpoon, who worked on Grammy-winning records from Harry Styles and Miley Cyrus. He adds graceful notes of ambience to the linked openers "Ballerina Radio" and "Rainbow Ball," underlining them with distant hums of noise that embellish their pop melodies. A bit more of this, though, and Kings of Leon would get lost in the haze.

More characteristic is "Mustang"'s bang-and-clatter, the slow-building "Split Screen" and the guitar-heavy throwback of "Nothing to Do" that connect the indie-rock bustle of "Molly's Chambers" with "Use Somebody"'s arena-rock moves. Yet all of this makes Can We Please Have Fun uncertain of what type of album it wants to be and, more notably, which direction Kings of Leon will take moving forward. "Let's take this thing apart, rebuild it with our hands," Caleb Followill sings on the highlight "Hesitation Generation." More good advice worth heeding.

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso