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Mechanical Bull’ Rocks Out

Jimmy Kemper | Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this review, I must personally say that I have been fanboying over “Mechanical Bull” since it was first announced back in June. Even though Kings of Leon’s previous release, “Come Around Sundown” was dull at best, I have had extremely high hopes for this sixth studio album. The band has had some rather emotional experiences over the past two years, and a mechanical bull seems to be a near perfect way to describe it. On a deeper level though, the title represents the group’s intentions to shake things up with this album and move forward with their sound.
These intentions are made obvious with the leadoff track and the first single from the album, “Supersoaker.” The song captures the raw feral energy the band possessed in its first few records, while also emulating the smooth, refined choruses of “Only By the Night.” While “Only By The Night” did push Kings of Leon into the international spotlight with the hits “Use Somebody” and the infamous “Sex on Fire,” a good majority of the album lacked intensity and energy. With “Mechanical Bull,” Kings of Leon has combined all of their best elements to produce a record with an eclectic mix of songs that not only have a fun energy about them, but also reflect the band’s experience.
Part of the fun of listening to this album is the swinging, bluesy throwback sound that the Kings invoke in songs like “Family Tree” and “Rock City,” which isn’t about Los Angeles, Detroit, or New York, but the band’s hometown of Nashville. Kings of Leon really rock the southern sound, mixing the influence of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band to give all their songs on this album an upbeat driving force.
One of my personal favorites off this album is “Temple,” a rocking arena anthem that has a bouncy rhythm and fun guitar hooks. But even the slower stuff on “Mechanical Bull” is very solid and great to listen to. Specifically, “Tonight” is a passionate song which draws upon the darker sounds of “Only By the Night” but feels fresher and more polished.
The best song from “Mechanical Bull” by far is the ambitious “Comeback Story,” which is a neat little reflection of the band’s shakeup since lead singer Caleb Followill’s alcoholic breakdown in the middle of a show in 2011. The song makes good use of darker tones, a jamming guitar, and an echoing whistling chorus to create a terrific sound. It also gives rise to the clever couplet “I walk a mile in your shoes/ now I’m a mile away and I’ve got your shoes”.
At this point, I’ve basically praised almost every song on the album. And honestly, this is an album that deserves the acclaim. This is the most fun, energetic, well-produced record the Kings have had since “Aha Shake Heartbreak” way back in 2004. The band creatively blends two guitars to make some sick riffs to push their music forward into new territories. Caleb’s vocal work is superb as usual, but it seems as the focus of the music has shifted from featuring his voice toward highlighting the overall harmony of the band, which is a great change and makes everything more special. Simply put, this album is awesome and is definitely worth a listen.
Contact Jimmy Kemper at
jkemper2@nd.edu