Kings Of Leon's 'Mechanical Bull' - Is this a return to form?
From Garage Rockers to Stadium-Fillers...
Kings of Leon return with their sixth studio album and the first outing from the Tennessee four-piece since 2010’s Come Around Sundown. Those familiar with the band’s entire back catalogue could be forgiven for wondering which Kings of Leon is going to turn up; so is this the raw garage rock of Youth & Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbreak, or the anthemic stadium rock of Only By The Night?
"Speaking to Billboard, drummer Nathan Followill described the new album as an ‘unofficial best of’ and it isn’t hard to see why – Mechanical Bull represents a distillation of the band’s sound over a decade of sonic evolution."
Kings of Leon: Distilled
Speaking to Billboard, drummer Nathan Followill described the new album as an ‘unofficial best of’ and it isn’t hard to see why – Mechanical Bull represents a distillation of the band’s sound over a decade of sonic evolution. Long-time friend and producer Angelo Petraglia is once again at the controls, so while the album does have a less slick approach and a more blues-influenced feel in places, otherwise there are few surprises.
Opener and lead single 'Supersoaker' sets the scene; this is Kings-of-Leon-101, all chugging guitars, pumping Motown-esque drums and soaring melodies, duelled out by Matthew’s guitars and Caleb’s crackling vocals.
'Don’t Matter' is one of the album’s highlights and sees the band channelling Queens Of The Stone Age and The Stooges, a visceral performance enhanced by a lyric that finds them in defiant mood: (I can f*ck or I can fight / it don’t matter to me).
'Temple' is Kings of Leon at their best; smooth, stomping verses and euphoric chorus hooks - a strong candidate for a future single - while the southern-funk-rock vibe of 'Family Tree' invokes the Doobie Brothers with its snaking bass line and funky backbeat.
There’s humour here too: 'Comeback Story' delivers the album’s laugh-out-loud moment with its hook: (I walked a mile in your shoes / Now I’m a mile away / and I’ve got your shoes).
'Coming Back Again' seems to be a conscious attempt to replicate the kind of stadium-filler anthem that is 'Sex on Fire' – it doesn’t quite get there, but when Caleb sings “I can feel it coming back again”, for a moment you almost can. 'On the Chin' is perhaps the moment where the band’s Tennessee roots shine through the most; a slightly melancholy ballad awash with slide guitars and deep south soul.
It has become fashionable in recent years to deride Kings of Leon – the band has been dogged somewhat unfairly by doubts about their authenticity and accusations that they are ‘manufactured’. Mechanical Bull will not be to everyone’s taste, particularly those who prefer the more raw sound of the first two albums, but for fans of the more evolved and refined sound of the band’s recent output, there is plenty to cheer.
Die-hard fans may want to opt for the Deluxe Edition, which bags you two extra tracks in 'Work On Me' and 'Last Mile Home'.
Overall it’s a pretty solid effort from a band that has been together for a decade now. This is not a radical departure by any means, but that clearly wasn’t the aim here: they promised a ‘summing up’ of the last ten years, and that’s exactly what they’ve delivered.
Mechanical Bull is available in store and to download now.