Kings of Leon - Mechanical Bull (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
A FEW years ago, Kings of Leon were on top of the world and sweeping all before them. Then came the fallout from Come Around Sundown (an album we rated) and the band looked in danger of imploding.
Fortunately, time away has seen them come back fresh and determined to set things back on course for global domination. And Mechanical Bull is a good first step towards achieving that.
A sly mix of their classic Tennessee blues and the arena rock elements of more recent work, this makes you remember why Caleb Followill and company were able to blast their way into your sub-conscious in the first place (and take such pride of place).
The rock numbers are gritty and robust (and sometimes down and dirty), while the slower, more anthemic numbers are dripping in the emotional complexity that is the hallmark of every great big band, from Coldplay to U2.
Evidence of the former is to be found in the edgy Rock City, in which Caleb professes to be a bad boy looking for a bad girl, and even more so on the ragged Don’t Matter, in which Caleb sings: “I can fuck, I can fight, it don’t matter to me.” Coming just two and three songs in, it’s a blistering statement of intent.
Beautiful War then slows things down for a proper U2 power ballad moment, taking a reflective look at a dangerous romance (complete with lines like “love don’t mean nothing less there’s something worth fighting for”) and reminding you of the emotionally compelling elements of Come Around Sundown moments such as Use Somebody (it was written at the same time).
Just occasionally, tracks feel like their on auto-pilot (Temple and Coming Back Again). But there’s always something good waiting in the locker. Family Tree, for instance, drops a very cute bass and emerges as a funky rocker that declares “I am your family tree, I know your A-Z”… it’s the sound of a band having some fun.
While Comeback Story is another of those stadium-sized slow-builders that underline the band’s progression from blues rock to rock royalty… it’s dripping in endearing melodies, layered with terrific guitar riffs, background whistling (and even some belated strings) and alive with heartfelt lyrics (“I walk a mile in your shoes, and now I’m a mile away, and I’ve got your shoes”).
There’s beauty mixed with anguish, too, on the equally compelling Tonight (“I don’t know why I keep acting this way”), while album closer On The Chin contains an aching romanticism soaked in the bluesy, slow-burning style that is also now a trademark.
All told, and problems cast aside, this is a pretty formidable return.
Download picks: Rock City, Don’t Matter, Beautiful War, Family Tree, Comeback Story, Tonight, On The Chin