Tag Archives: Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon ‘Mechanical Bull’ – Review

2 Oct

‘Wait for me, it’s all better now’ is the hook to one of Kings of Leon’s comeback singles. Here Caleb could be reaching out to his disgruntled fans, many of whom were left bewildered after a series of Spinal Tap approved disasters played out on the band’s 2011 tour. Mocking fans on stage at Reading Festival is never a good idea, neither is refusing to play your biggest hit, falling down drunk on stage, complaining about being attacked by pigeons and cancelling the final leg of your tour. Ok, why shouldn’t arguably the biggest band on the planet (two of whom are still in their 20’s) indulge in some rock star behaviour – especially as they’d had a virtually untainted run of good fortune until that point. Anyway, fans will forgive all that stuff if the music stays pure. Damningly for the band, at that point they were supporting ‘Come Around Sundown,’ a record that was dead on delivery. On ‘Wait For Me’ they seem to suggest that a corner has been turned.

Elsewhere on ‘Mechanical Bull’ Caleb sings ‘It’s the Comeback story of a lifetime,’ with more conviction than you’d imagine. This isn’t the comeback story of a lifetime, but it certainly isn’t another comedown (excuse the pun). It is a surprisingly consistent album that sounds rejuvenating for the band. It’s great to hear a group who recognise their strengths and play to them (take note MGMT and The Strokes). ‘Come Around Sundown’ was a dreary attempt at evolution, ‘Mechanical Bull’ is the sound of a band who have come to terms with exactly who they are and what they do: Kings of Leon are three brothers (and a cousin) who make good ol’ fashioned rock n roll. ‘Supersoaker’ opens the record with a fuzzy fanfare that blows the dust away. ‘Rock City’ is about as backward a song as your likely to hear in 2013; from the clichéd imagery (‘in the desert looking for drugs’) to the cringe inducing gender politics ‘I break down like a woman.’ Somehow they pull it off. ‘Don’t Matter’ is a chugging hard rock number that seems to draw attention to the band’s blase attitude to naysayers. It recalls every Stooges rip off you’ve ever heard. It’s in this backwater, second-hand rock n roll thrift store that KOL feel most at home.

Jared made some noises about ‘Mechanical Bull’ sounding like a culmination of their previous five albums, and In a way it does. For the opening trio KOL genuinely sound more alive than on any three song stretch since ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’. The arrangements are more polite, which suggests that the band have forgotten how to completely let loose and frolic, but the songs still rock harder than anything they’ve released in half a decade. Elsewhere they revisit the dark atmospherics of ‘Because of the Times’ (on ‘Coming Back Again’) the U2 balladry of ‘Only by the Night’ (on ‘Comeback Story’) and even the overblown/undercooked gospel rock of ‘Come Around Sundown’ (on ‘Family Tree’). As such it’s a Kings of Leon album I can imagine every fan enjoying, but equally I can’t see it becoming anyone’s favourite. I mean, ‘Wait For Me’ is great but it can’t emote like ‘Use Somebody’. ‘Temple’ is sexy, but it ain’t ‘Charmer’. Which also means that as much as fans will like it, critics are just as likely to loathe it. Pleasingly ‘Mechanical Bull’ doesn’t fight against that, it doesn’t grope in the dark for innovation or inspiration. It’s comfortable, familiar and warm – three very uncool adjectives that nonetheless feel wanted in 2013. It’s been a long wait for fans but ‘Mechanical Bull’ is worth it.


First Headliners Announced For Isle of Wight, And They Are…

16 Nov

Kings of Leon and Pulp. A bit yawn. Did I mention that Pulp had reformed? I don’t think anyone cares.

Kings of Leon ‘Come Around Sundown’ – Review

20 Oct

There is a moment when you realize a band have become part of the furniture, they are no longer essential or awe-inspiring – a moment when you start to describe them as dependable, a moment when you realize they haven’t surprised you in a while and they probably wont again. You still love them but it’s a different kind of love. A moment that you reach in any long-term relationship, whether it’s one with a woman or one with a band. With Muse it was their last album, Oasis it was ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’, R.E.M it was ‘Around The Sun’ etc. None of these albums are bad, but it’s the point when the band settled into their groove and didn’t look like wanting to change. With Kings of Leon ‘Come Around Sundown’ is that moment for them.

In many ways ‘Only By The Night’ sold less like an album and more like a must have household accessory – everyone had to have one, just to keep up with the neighbours. I really liked that record and I absolutely disagree with anyone that said the band sold out, It really wasn’t a huge departure for the band and I believe them when they say they aren’t too bothered about sales. And I’m sorry but why do you stop liking a band just because they become massive? Ok, so I was a little uncomfortable with my Mum knowing the words to ‘Sex On Fire’ and I didn’t much like hearing the band’s songs being used on X Factor, but that was simply a reflection of how great the tunes were and how suited the band are to mass appeal. There was undeniably a backlash though and I know a lot of people are ready to slate this album before they’ve even heard a note. The band know this as well and they have been unusually cagey and defensive in interviews surrounding the release.

First signs were good if not great. ‘Radioactive’ has that instant, sing along vibe that ensures it is already being used over match of the day highlights. It certainly isn’t the best thing the band have ever done, it’s a very inoffensive and middle of the road kind of rocker. It gave an indication that the album would see the band employing gospel choirs and epic riffs but these were ultimately red herrings as this is actually the group’s most laid back and simple album yet. ‘Beach Side’ was originally a B-Side (hence the name) because the group originally thought that it was too basic to appear on the album, but it’s a really nice song with some shimmery guitars and a nice organ sound. The second half of the album in particular is very sweet and enjoyable which slightly hides the fact that it actually isn’t that impressive, none of the songs towards the end of the album particularly stand out but it’s a nice listen. At the end of the day Kings of Leon albums have always had their fair share of filler, it’s something we’ve come to expect.

The album’s first half is where we expect the hits to be, but they never really come. ‘Radioactive’ is decent but it was never going to be as big as ‘Sex on Fire’, ‘Pyro’ sounds like a retake of ‘Use Somebody’ without the same emotional punch and anthemic chorus and ‘The End’ sounds like ‘Closer’ but less impressive. Of the early tracks ‘Mary’ is the only one to really knock you out, it’s the kind of power pop stunner that Phil Spector may have produced, it is something genuinely new for the band. ‘Back Down South’ is also quite impressive although it’s country tone sounds a little bit confused, as if the band were trying to revisit their roots but got a bit lost on the way.

It’s hard to work out the album’s niche – it isn’t as edgy as ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ it isn’t as indie as ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’, it isn’t as dark as ‘Because of the Times’ and it isn’t as classy as ‘Only By The Night’. In some ways it takes elements from all of the above and waters them down into an easy listening brew. One thing that really lets it down is the lack of a great rock song, every other KOL album has had at least two but ‘Come Around Sundown’ has none – the band don’t even attempt one, only ‘No Money’ picks up the pace but this is hardly brilliant.

‘Come Around Sundown’ is the sound of a band Sunday driving, despite all the pre-release talk there aren’t any brave new directions explored here and this isn’t a return to their country-rock roots. Most of these songs are mid-tempo chuggers that sound good on a car stereo but they don’t get the pulse racing and they don’t hold up to close inspection either. There is nothing with the tension of ‘Crawl’ or ‘Black Thumbnail’, nothing with the spirit of ‘Red Morning Light’, nothing as moving as ‘Cold Desert’ and nothing as anthemic as ‘Sex on Fire’ or ‘Use Somebody’. Everyone I know seems to have a different favourite KOL album but I am pretty certain that this wouldn’t  be anyones. It isn’t that they have gone backwards, it’s just that they haven’t moved forward at all – actually they seem to be going sideways. Kings of Leon are nearly a middle-aged band and unless they do something to spice things up soon they could find this romance going a bit stale.


Reading and Leeds 2009!

6 Sep

Reading and Lees festival took place over the Bank Holiday Weekend and I was lucky enough to attend the Northern Leg. 2008’s festival was the best yet and I had doubts that 09 could ever beat it but if anything it was even better.
Over the weekend I saw a good mix of new and more established bands, kicking of the weekend on the Thursday with some new music from Wild Beasts, Bear Hands and Holy State. Wild Beats put on a great show on the back of their recently released (and hugely acclaimed) album, ‘Two Dancers’ whilst New York City’s Bear Hands were even better, showing why their debut album is so highly anticipated.

Other new bands to impress over the weekend included The XX, who put on a great show despite being all but drowned out by Leathle Bizzle on the NME stage. It was impossible to escape The XX’s simple but effective T Shirts that seemed to be everywhere (including on Vampire Weekend’s singer!). Their sound was lo-fi and emotional, just as it is on their album and I think they left everyone impressed. Hockey were also hugely impressive with thier blend of funk, pop and indie over on the FR stage. Their debut album is out next month and judging by this performance it is going to be massive (or deserves to be!). The Virgins put on a simple but high energy performance on the Sunday, bringing a fairly large crowd with them despite declining weather conditions. They performed most of their recently released album although many of the songs were disappointingly chopped or changed, and despite rudimentary playing and off key vocals it was an entertaining show. They were followed by Little Boots who brought some pop sparkle to the festival and The Horrors who may well have stolen the day with their already classic songs from their albums ‘Strange House’ and ‘Primary Colours’. They have improved a lot since the last time I saw them, 3 years ago, although they may have lost some of the raw punk energy that made their original show so great. Nonetheless this was one of highlights of the weekend, in particular their frantic version of ‘Count in Fives’ and the more laid back charms of ‘Who can Say’. I skipped Jack Penate and Jamie T after two disappointing sets last time I saw them, whilst the hottest new band in the world, The Soft Pack, unfortunately had to pull out leaving a space for fellow cool young things Amazing Baby, who alas could never compete. I also had to sacrifice The Golden Silvers due to bad weather; disappointing but hardly the end of the world.

Over on the mainstage Noah and The Whale took a more relaxed approach which was a nice change pace. Their new album is brilliant and they played some of its best tracks, such as ‘Blue Skies’. However I was pretty stumped as to why they didn’t play ‘5 years Time’, a summer anthem that would have set the Saturday off in style. Of the harder acts Fightstar impressed with their blend of melodic / screamo rock, knocking the crowd back with songs such as ‘The English Way’.  Enter Shikari were the weekend’s biggest disappointment, appearing unfortunately muted and worn throughout their short set, although it may have been me who was worn out by then!  The Prodigy warmed up the stage for Arctic Monkeys in truly electric style blasting through their hits in high octane warfare approach. ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Breathe’ were particularly mad, and newer material stood up very well alongside it. However Things got to much during ‘Voodoo People’ leading to mass crushes and people climbing ice cream vans to escape the masses!

Luckily Friday headliners Arctic Monkeys were a lot calmer, and much more sophisticated. They were apearing off the back of their sensational new album ‘Humbug’ so it’s fair to say I was looking forward to them more than any other band. Their set was a lot more ordinary than we have come to expect, in terms of songs. Whilst previously they may have played the odd B Side or in the case of 2006 kicked of with their biggest hit, here they kept things simple by opening with first song on their new album ‘My Proppeler’ before running through a setlist made up of classic oldies and newer album tracks. Even the 7 new songs they played have all been previewed live before so I was a bit annoyed we couldn’t hear ‘Dance Little Liar’ or ‘Jewelers Hands’, nonetheless the ones they did play were excellent. Compared to their highly energetic 2006 set, this headline slot was a lot calmer and composed. They swapped fast tempos for a considered pace and though the results were less exciting, they were equally enjoyable. If only some other people in the crowd could have appreciated their new subtleties. Whilst they danced and screamed to ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ or ‘Still Take You Home’ They yawned and talked though ‘Secret Door’ and even the new version of ‘Fluorescent adolecent’. More fool them because their whole performance was a real delight.

Bloc Party have played for 4 times in 5 years, so excuse me If I wasn’t to excited about seeing them. I was, however, pleasantly surprised as this was by far their best performance yet. Whilst ‘Silent Alarm’ remains their best album by a country mile (and they played considerably less material from this album than in years gone by), the band seemed very much at home playing their more dance influenced newer material. New Single ‘One More Chance’ went down very well and ‘Flux’ was another crowd pleaser. Lets face it though, Bloc Party were a means to an end. Saturday – heck, the whole weekend – was all about Radiohead. They Were every thing they could have been and more, possibly the most sublime live experience on the planet. Their set list was as perfect as I thought possible (until I saw their Reading set) with a fantastic mixture of new songs and classic sing alongs. Their opening couldn’t have been better – 15 Steps, Airbag, There There, Nude and Lucky all coming in the first 25 minutes. They did some great versions of songs from my favourite album of theirs (Kid A) including the highlight ‘National Anthem’. The conclusion was a stunning version of Paranoid Android before the frenzied ‘Just’ and the soothing end of ‘Everything in It’s right Place’. The light show was out of this world, the crowd were brilliant and the sound quality was better than I thought you could get at a music festival. I couldn’t have asked for any more – except maybe creep or fake Plastic Trees…but then again they could have played anything from their huge back Catalogue and I would have been happy. I can’t wait to see them again now.

Kaiser Chiefs on the Sunday were a must see despite the fact I have never been a big fan of theirs. Luckily I know how good they are live and I was not disappointed by their greatest hits set (despite only having three albums). They were up for it and so were the crowd, especially on ‘I predict a Riot’ and ‘Angry Mob’. The choice of who to see headline was not so easy, and it was a decision I fretted over. Kings of Leon or Faith No More? In the end I went for Kings of Leon and I don’t regret it. I have since heard of their bizarre Reading show in which they insulted the poor crowd and threw guitars at security. Well they couldn’t have been more gracious at Leeds, praising and thanking the audience at every turn and playing a much better setlist than they did when they played two years ago. ‘Red Morning Light’ was the highlight but it was the newer songs that most people had come for (something that so clearly grated Caleb at Reading.) Overall it was a very good end to a brilliant weekend. I would have loved to have seen Faith No More, and I only heard good things about thier show, but I am glad I saw KOL’s final performance of 2009.

Of course this festival wasn’t just about the music, and I saw some great comedians, films, shoops, food, and had a lot of fun over the 5 days I was there, but I would be here till christmas if I started on that…Bring on 2010!