Kings of Leon - Mechanical Bull
The Followills recapture their Southern friend rock roots with sixth album
This article is from 2013.
When Kings of Leon announced that Mechanical Bull was to be the title of their comeback album, there may have sneaking suspicions that they had indeed combusted, and were residing in a world of fantasy, delusion and robotic bovines.
So cruel was the decline of one of the biggest rock bands of the modern era – one that saw them brought low by pigeon bombings and succumb to fractures within – that it would have been easy to assume they had burnt out. But, with Mechanical Bull coming round a decade after their debut, ten years at the top has not yet broken them.
Title aside, the end result is indeed a fantasy, in the sense that Kings of Leon have turned back the clocks and recaptured a certain degree of their past – at several moments on this record, they resurrect themselves as shaggy-haired hillbilly punks.
Opening track ‘Supersoaker’ is not exceptional but it serves the purpose of busting out a big statement of intent. It’s upbeat, poppy and has Caleb Followill howling the lyrics like a lonely hound. With the appropriate boxes ticked and the palate prepared, next up is ‘Rock City’, a tale of self-loathing and desperation that serves to explain the band’s time in the wilderness, and their return to where they belong.
It’s not until the third track that Kings of Leon get down to business with the Thin Lizzy-haunted ‘Don’t Matter’, a stonking track riddled with sizzling guitars and the appropriate whoops (including one of Followill’s more memorable lyrics: ‘I’m like a snake, wake and bake’). Things slow down with overawed reflection on ‘Beautiful War’, then quickly reignite with the teenage abandon of ‘Temple’ before the disappointingly average ‘Family Tree’. There are a few others that are saved from being ultimately forgettable by the Southern-rock backwater magic that Kings of Leon always seem to possess, ‘Wait For Me’ and ‘Comeback Story’ among them.
The album proceeds to level out and lean back towards stadium scale numbers, the grandiosity of ‘Tonight’ betraying their supposed return to reckless youth. There is a resurgence of tempo in ‘Coming Back Again’, Nathan Followill’s machine gun drumming a final triumphant proclamation of their return, before concluding with the ghostly reassurance of their abilities with ‘On the Chin’.
This is a marked improvement upon Come Around Sundown, which itself was not terrible. The dilemma with Kings of Leon is that their early material, which yelped like a well-whipped mutt, was as organic-sounding as music comes and extremely elusive. They have weathered the storm, and to produce something with the energy that permeates from Mechanical Bull is surely a signifier that their legacy will continue.