Album Review: Kings Of Leon – Mechanical Bull

Have A Ride.

A decade after Kings Of Leon graced rock n’ roll with ‘Youth & Young Manhood’ – a debut packed with hillbilly haircuts and hard-rocking, bluesy guitars over frontman Caleb Followill‘s exuberant raw hollerin’, they’re back with their sixth album, ‘Mechanical Bull’.

A lot of things have changed over the course of the Followill’s career since then and maybe not for the better. 2008 probably saw KOL at their peak with the eerie, desert rock of ‘Only By The Night‘, a record which catapulted the Kings to the top of the charts with arguably their biggest hits to date – ‘Sex On Fire‘ and ‘Use Somebody‘. Suddenly, these boys became men with a penchant for stadium rock in their last album, ‘Come Around Sundown‘. A move that came off cheesy, not necessarily ‘selling-out” by any means, but that all-or-nothing, deep-south rock attitude felt absent.

‘Mechanical Bull’ is much more of a smooth, productive balance between KOL’s earlier works and recent grandeur. Lead single ‘Supersoaker’ is rip-roaring good fun, a sun-kissed summer anthem with a vibrant riff to boot, whereas ‘Rock City’ teeters on the brink of Spring(Cheese)stein on a drug binge down south.

‘Don’t Matter’ hints at a welcome return to dirty, rock n’ roll, sounding like a bar-fight between KOL and Queens Of The Stone Age, whilst ‘Temple’ steals the limelight with it’s rampant melody and crunchy riffs about punch-drunk love.

Elsewhere, there’s the second single, ‘Wait For Me’, reminiscent of something off of ‘Only By The Night’; dark, brooding, yet tender. Kudos to the Followill’s for having the balls to pull of a song like ‘Family Tree’, a jaunty, funky pop-rock number full of pride and soul. Think Paramore‘s ‘Ain’t It Fun’ with more swagger, you can sense the smiles and rejuvenation in their music.

However, the latter half of the album lets Mechanical Bull’ down, straying into territory that has not befitted KOL. When the tempo is turned down, they suffer for it. For all of ‘Comeback Story’s lyrical genius and Caleb’s superb (as ever) southern vocals, it’s just rather ordinary, as is the threadbare pair of ‘Tonight’ and ‘On The Chin’.

If you’re looking for the Kings of old, then you should delve into certain aspects of ‘Mechanical Bull’. It might take one more record for the band to truly hone their sound but the Followill’s sixth album is a enjoyable ride when the Bull’s raging.

3.5 out of 5 stars. 

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