A couple of years ago it seemed like Kings of Leon were hanging in the balance. The momentum the band of brothers (and a cousin) gained on their way to joining the ranks of the world’s most popular rockers had waned following lukewarm album reviews, reports of infighting and, oddly, the Followills walking off stage in St Louis due to pigeons shitting on them.
‘Mechanical Bull’ shows the four-piece emerging from this sticky patch on introspective form. The maturing band has gone back to their Nashville roots, while simultaneously delivering what the fans have been missing: superior rock songs that will sound incredible live. Opener ‘Supersoaker’ is bright and cheeky, but it’s the unapologetically punkish ‘Don’t Matter’ that really sets things off. At less than three minutes long and with time to spare to include a crowd-pleasing guitar solo, it’s a welcome reminder of the sort of streamlined energy Kings of Leon can produce at their best.
There’s also a fair amount of melancholy on ‘Mechanical Bull’, including the country-influenced anguish of ‘Comeback Story’: ‘I’ll walk a mile in your shoes… now I’m a mile away and I’ve got your shoes,’ Caleb reflects, with bitter humour, over a luscious string arrangement backed by lap steel guitar twangs. It’s outdone, however, by the intense longing and pain of ‘Wait For Me’ – the record’s standout ballad.
There are blips – ‘Family Tree’, for example, starts promisingly with a catchy riff but descends into what sounds like a Zutons cover of ‘Play That Funky Music’ – but they’re minor, and there are enough gems on ‘Mechanical Bull’ overall to call it a return to form. It will certainly leave you wanting another ride.Jamie Afoke, 28, is a lawyer from Borough. He was selected to write this review as part of the Time Out Takeover – a special edition of the magazine written entirely by our readers.
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