Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t argue the amount of success Kings of Leon has had since dropping 2008’s Only by the Night. Grammy wins and nominations, millions of albums sold worldwide, successful tours and headlining festival appearances, Kings of Leon have been a vital part of the musical landscape over the last few years. Before Only by the Night (and 2010’s follow up, Come Around Sundown), the brothers and cousin Followill were a rockin’ across the land Southern band that produced three incredible albums (2003’s Youth and Young Manhood, 2004’s Aha Shake Heartbreak, and 2007’s Because of the Times ). So when it came time for the band to emerge from a hiatus to create studio album #6, Mechanical Bull, the band went back to their roots from those opening three albums, but kept what made them superstars: arena-filling pop sensibilities. With it, the band has made their most complete album to date, and made a stamp of why they will be around for a long, long time.
Mechanical Bull opens with the roar of a blazing guitar opener, courtesy of the album’s first single, “Supersoaker”. The song, about not minding “sentimental girls at times”, serves up a really excellent guitar line and has one of the best closings of a KoL tune to date; the song’s closing explosion of sound is sensory overload in the best sense of the word. After it comes “Rock City”, where the sound of the band’s pre-Only albums begins to show; the song sounds crafted for longtime fans and is sure to make them happy as well as new fans with a great blend of Southern blues and alternative rock songwriting.
Then comes the boom.
“Don’t Matter” is the boom. The heaviest song on the record by far, “Don’t Matter” has all the intangibles of a perfect modern alternative rock classic; it’s heavy, it’s fast, and it has in my opinion the best guitar solo of any previous KoL work. It’s a masterpiece is already amazing live. It’ll pump up crowds for tours and tours to come; definitely a song that’ll be in the band’s live repertoire for their entire career.
The album curls back into calmness with “Beautiful War”, a soft tune about being in love and all the troubles that come with it. It’s a great way to come back down from the high of “Don’t Matter” and it’s an amazing song in it’s own right; that bass line and the drum work here is spot on and fantastic. “Temple” is a melodic rocker that provides and easy transition between “Beautiful War” and the next song, and the album’s second single “Wait For Me”. I love “Wait For Me”. It’s an awesome ballad-like song without being overly ballad-like; the riff is really tasty and it’s definitely a song that resonates with anyone who has ever felt like love is leaving them behind or is gone.
“Family Tree” is a southern foot stomper of a song that has a really tasty groove and is a really danceable tune; fans of the band’s more alt-country tunes from their early days will definitely dig this one. “Comeback Story” and “Tonight” provide a back-to-back punch of softer Southern pop arena-rock goodness that really shows off what the band has managed to provide on the record. “Coming Back Again” is another perfect song that lets the rhythm section shine; flawless, and the guitar riffs on this song are sweet. The album’s closer, “On The Chin”, provides the final soft blow of another early day-sounding KoL tune, and sets the album off into the sunset.
Overall, Mechanical Bull is the band’s most complete album to date; it has all the Southern rock/bluesy goodness of the band’s first few records and combines them with the band’s best qualities the the band’s last two works, that arena, larger than life presence and abilities to write perfectly slow songs without being too poppy or too laid back. Mechanical Bull is an all-fan friendly record and it might be their best. Highly recommended for anyone, period.
FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10.
Mechanical Bull is available on September 24th, via RCA. Pre-orders are ongoing. You can stream the entire album right now via iTunes.
Check out the music video for “Supersoaker”, as well as a live performance of “Don’t Matter” at the band’s American Express AMEX Unstaged performance eariler this year: