November 11, 2013 / 10:28 pm

Kings of Leon-Mechanical Bull

Released: 9/20/2013
5/7 stars

As a Kings of Leon fan, it’s been a rough few years. After the massive success of 2008’s Only By the Night, The Nashville quartet, composed of brothers Caleb, Jared and Nathan Followill, and cousin Matthew Followill, began selling out stadium tours around the world. They came back in 2010 with a lack-luster effort, Come Around Sundown, continued touring, and eventually teetered on a break-up following an exhaustion-fueled tantrum in which lead singer Caleb Followill drunkenly stormed off stage without returning to finish the set.

The band cancelled 26 tour dates. They announced their hiatus in October 2011. Fans wondered if they would ever hear from the band that produced the magic that was 2004’s Aha Shake Heartbreak. Critics said this was bound to happen after reaching such monumental triumph with their singles, “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire.” A band sees commercial success and fails to recapture the sales of the follow-up, the members fight, go their separate ways and we rarely hear from them again. Right?

Not quite the case with Kings of Leon. With the release of Mechanical Bull, camp Followill proved to fans and doubters alike they could return to their original form and produce a record that wiped away the turmoil of the past several years.

The album starts off with the first single, “Supersoaker,” an upbeat, guitar heavy beat that highlights Caleb Followill’s gruff vocals. A string of southern-rock infused tracks follow, including the foot-stomping, hand-clapping jam “Rock City” and the soulful “Don’t Matter.”
The band reaches new lyrical and emotional heights with, “Beautiful War,” a slow and soulful track about Caleb Followill’s quest to find meaning in love. He croons in the chorus: “I said love/Don’t mean nothing/Unless there’s something/Worth fighting for.” This song is an album standout. Other mid-tempo tracks such as “Wait for Me” and “Comeback Story” follow, which help add a balance between the faster-paced melodies and slower tunes.

That’s not to say the album is without its flaws. Kitschy lyrics arise in “Family Tree.” A chorus consisting of “I am your family tree/I know your A-to-Z,” pales in comparison to its counterparts on the album. Additionally, there is an occasional disconnect between what sound they desire to capture and the audience they want to please. Songs such as “Temple” ring true to the grittier, Southern-rock sound they captured in their earlier work, whereas tracks like “Coming Back Again” feel more at home with the larger stadium work they produced with Only By the Night.

Mechanical Bull meets the expectations with both long-time fans and those who joined after their massive rise in popularity. It shows a growth and maturity in their sound and while inconsistent at times, mirrors their early work beautifully. After a near demise of Kings of Leon,Mechanical Bull proves to be a comeback album worth remembering.

—Annie Skertic
Reach Annie at mskertic@indiana.edu