I tried. I really tried to be objective while listening to the new Kings of Leon record, “Mechanical Bull.” If it’s possible, I don’t know how, which either makes me lazy or unimaginative. From the sounds of “Bull,” Kings of Leon were suffering the same symptoms.
A good rock and roll record has a lot of analogies to a sports car. It can be the new hot shit or it can be a vintage-style muscle car. It needs to have balls, impress people with how cool it looks and be really fast. They don’t get the best mileage, they can’t haul much, if any cargo and they’re really expensive. But they’re dead sexy and impress on many levels. If “Mechanical Bull” was a car, it would be a used mid-90’s Ford Escort formerly owned by the singer of Quiet Riot. That’s not an impressive car, and even if you know anything about Quiet Riot (they’ve had three singers), it’s still just a four-cylinder nothing of an automobile.
It’s too bad, too, because my bias coming into the record was well in favor of Kings of Leon. I still believe “Sex on Fire” was one of the best songs of the 2000’s, but now I’m coming to realize that the band isn’t likely to produce music at that level again. Their entire album is about coming back from the brink of failure, about making up for all the wrongs and rising like a phoenix from the ashes. The ashes of the house they lit on fire, but the metaphor can still hold. Listening to “Comeback Story,” and a song later, “Coming Back Again,” I wonder why they bothered.
Don’t believe me, though. Listen for yourself below: