Album review: Kings of Leon's Mechanical Bull - rock blues

Kings of Leon return after a three-year hiatus with an album that reminds listeners of their old spark.

Fyez Ahmed January 19, 2014
Kings of Leon return after a three-year hiatus with an album that reminds listeners of their old spark.

Kings of Leon is a band that has very little to prove. Their first three albums, featuring a blend of Southern rock blues, had a dedicated cult following. Despite hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the Mecca of Americana, they remained unnoticed by most Americans.

The band was playing to thousands in the UK but still failed to evoke the same appreciation back home. Then something changed in 2008. They cut back on the moonshine and wrote about something other than having a good time at the rodeo. Only By The Night went platinum. The band got nominated for multiple Grammys, and even won one for best rock performance. Then they sold out at Madison Square Garden. America had been resolutely broken.

With Mechanical Bull, the sixth album by the three brothers and their cousin, one can sense that this is a band that has come to terms with its identity — a band that writes infectious, layered classic rock songs, drenched in the essence of the American south.

When the first single of the album, Supersoaker, kicks things off, you notice a theme that continues through most of the songs in the album. It starts with a basic riff that gets piled on with layers until you reach the eventual swell of the chorus, before fading and gradually flickering out. One of the more upbeat tracks on the album, it rivals with Rock City as the song you would want playing in the background while on a road trip with your friends.

Like most Kings Of Leon albums, this one too has tracks such as Wait For Me and Beautiful War that are just made for mix CDs. The rhythm of the songs along with frontman Caleb Followill’s heart-wrenching vocals will force you to listen to each number multiple times.

However, the album is not restricted to songs about heartbreak and pain and also features upbeat tracks like Dont Matter which has the band taking a page out of the Queens of The Stone Age book. Fuzz soaked guitars lead into a blistering solo, with a quiet contempt showcased in the lyrics, that remind one of their 2004 single Four Kicks.

Mechanical Bull should not be confused as a return to form. Yes, 2010’s Come Around Sundown was disappointing but how do you possibly follow in the wake of Only By The Night? The only way of living up to the expectations was by creating an album like this one. Seasoned but not dated. Sensitive but not corny. Raw but not under-produced. I walk a mile in your shoes/I walk a mile away/And I’ve got your shoes. With prose like that what’s not to love?

Sounds like: Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty jamming with Tom Petty, with Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz on vocals.

Also check out: Only By The Night — Kings Of Leon

August and Everything After — Counting Crows

Green River — Creedence Clearwater Revival

Fyez Ahmed is a Dubai-based writer. He tweets @fyezeatscake

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, January 19th, 2014.


Nicole Delger | 7 years ago | Reply What a great review of the new Kings of Leon album, Mechanical Bull. I work with Todd Sanders at Roadhouse Relics who designed the album cover. There's a great back story and video about it should you or your readers be interested.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ


Most Read