Mechanical Bull

Mechanical Bull-Kings of Leon

Album reviewed by Kendra Anne Bartell


Undoubtedly, the Kings of Leon have one of the greatest backstories of most bands out there right now: they’re all brothers (well, three brothers and one cousin) that were raised by a preacher and almost became preachers themselves. That is, until the rock gods spoke to them and they picked up musical instruments. Mechanical Bull is their newest release (their sixth), out this September after a three-year hiatus.

And what a wonder that break did for the band. After the disappointing release that was Come Around Sundown (and that cover, really!?), KOL seems to be working with something that pulls from their down-home, raw and weird Southern rocker roots. “Supersoaker,” the first single, has definite resonance with tunes like “Red Morning Light” off of their first album. There’s an energy, a life force in these songs that seemed to be lacking in Come Around Sundown. The guitars are fierce, and lead singer Caleb Followill’s voice seems to have regained some of that roughness and raw ferocity that made the first albums by KOL so addictive.

That being said, there are some songs on the album that feel, for lack of a better word, mechanical in their appeals to a certain kind of listener. “Don’t Matter,” for example, seems to be practicing what it preaches, with lines like “It don’t matter to me/It’s always the same/I’m always the same” on top of a guitar riff and beat that feel heard before.

As with other albums, some of the gems come out of the middle of the album. “Comeback Story” is a real hit on this one–a sweet melody that puts Caleb’s voice more front-and-center than on other tracks, again, trying for what worked so well for them in earlier releases. What sets this track apart from others on the album is the way the vocal melody, whistling chorus, and the lightened-up-reverb guitar work together. It’s also got a killer joke of a line: “I walk a mile in your shoes/Now I’m a mile away/And I’ve got your shoes.”

“Family Tree” is another surprise hit for me, in terms of its use of a bass heavy funk rhythm rather than fast paced guitar riffs at the center of the song.

Ultimately, Mechanical Bull seems to be aiming to unite the two factions of KOL fans: the die-hard purists that swear by the bands’ first three albums, and those that fell in love after the runaway success of songs like “Sex on Fire.” The record is clearly more produced and concerned with technique (as evidenced by Caleb’s clean vocals), but it’s also a really melodic, easy listen. There may not be as big a radio hit or “perfect” back-to-basics early Kings song on this album, but it doesn’t stop it from being a fun listen to tap your feet along to.


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