I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt wary when Kings of Leon announced a new album. After the huge success they enjoyed after Only By The Night, the huge single ‘Sex on Fire’ and the somewhat overrated and disappointing follow up Come Around Sundown in 2010, it’s about time the Followill brothers came up with something worthwhile.
It’s a huge relief to listen to Mechanical Bull and realise they’ve done it. They’ve returned to the stripped-back sounds of their debut Youth and Young Manhood and sophomore album Aha Shake Heartbreak. Suddenly, it’s no longer cool to hate on Kings of Leon.
First single and album opener ‘Supersoaker’ has been played all over the place. Unless you’ve blocked out all radio in the last couple of months, it’s highly unlikely you haven’t heard it yet. Caleb’s voice is as strong as ever, and the arrangement on this track is understated, yet effective. The bass line, energetic riff and catchy hook are guaranteed to stick in your head for days. What a way to make a comeback!
The mark of a good album is not being able to identify just one standout song, or more accurately, choosing them all as standouts. That’s what it’s like with Mechanical Bull – trying to choose just a couple of highlights is nearly impossible. Once you name one song, you feel inclined to name them all. ‘Don’t Matter’ is heavier than the tracks that preceded it, and shows how far they’ve come as musicians since their last album. The guitar work on this album is reminiscent of 2007’s Because of the Times and it shows they’ve really worked on their sound and skill over the last three years.
But of course, it’s not a KOL album without some ballads. ‘Beautiful War’, ‘Wait For Me’ and ‘On the Chin’ all provide contrast on this album perfectly. They’re spaced out between more energetic songs, so that the flow of the album doesn’t lag. It’s a chance for Caleb’s voice to really standout and for them to show off their song-writing ability.
If I had to choose just one standout, it’s definitely ‘Family Tree’. What a fantastic piece of music. From the moment that drumbeat starts and the bass riff kicks in it clearly means business. Caleb’s subtle cough at the start completes that blues feeling they want to achieve. The way the song moves through the verse to the chorus and ever so slightly builds up is as sexy as hell. When each new instrument is added, especially the guitar riff between the chorus and second verse, it’s done perfectly.
This is a big call, but I’m going to say Mechanical Bull is up there as one of the best albums released in 2013. Congratulations, Kings of Leon! You’ve won me back.
Take a listen to Mechanical Bull for yourself and let us know if KOL have worked their way back into your heart.
Mechanical Bull is available now from iTunes.