Since the release of their smash hit single "Sex On Fire," and Grammy Award winning track "Use Somebody," it seemed as though Nashville based Kings of Leon had been struggling to find another song or album to help them reach the top once again. With their most recent release, however, the family band has done just that.
Mechanical Bull truly is thirteen tracks packed with that true Southern Rock the group was best known for with their first two albums Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004) and Youth and Young Manhood (2003), both of which featured high energy rock and roll that deemed the group "The Strokes of the South."
The first single to come off the album (which is conveniently the first track ON the album), "Supersoaker," brings your right back to those first two KOL albums with high-paced guitar strumming and the screaming, squeaky vocals of lead singer Caleb Followill.
"Family Tree" also demonstrates the classic Kings Of Leon feel, as well as lyrical themes. Lyrics like "I am your family tree // I know your A-Z // this is a secret proposition, lay your hands on me // Not gonna talk about darlin', it's so neighbourly // I see your hands are shaking but my heart is breaking me down," demonstrate that crass and almost immature nature of KOL from over ten years ago.
The album isn't a complete copy of their younger days, though. Songs like "Complete Story," and "Last Mile Home," show the years of growth and maturing the band has done both individually and as a group. Before the recording of Mechanical Bull, the band was going through some pretty hard times. In an interview with Rolling Stone drummer Nathan Followill mentioned the band had "taken a break" to get some air after bassist Nathan Followill had tweeted about "internal sickness" in the band.
The group clearly got over whatever drama they had going on, and, by putting aside their differences, were able to come up with an incredibly diverse album that combines the beloved sounds of both old and new Kings of Leon. Songs like "On the Chin," demonstrate this blend in such a perfect way by combining the Southern twang in which the group used to initially break out onto the scene along with the mature and easy-listening lyrics and vocal melody that the band developed in albums like Come Around Sundown.
It's as though the group looked at every record they've made in the past and picked out their favorite part, their favorite sound and said, "this is good, let's use this again." One could listen to the album and get a complete understanding of the groups beginning, present, and possibly even their future. Songs like "Temple" that shows a bit of the high energy and feel-good vibes from the past and "Beautiful War" that combine feelings from Because of the Times and Only By The Night both show this feeling of complete embodiment of the band's discography.
All in all, Mechanical Bull is, cover to cover, a fantastic album for any first time listener of Kings of Leon. It combines only the best elements from all of their previous work in such a beautiful way it begs the question, "what's next?" Kings of Leon have had such a roller coaster of a career; from albums of teenage angst anthems like Aha Shake Heartbreak and Youth and Young Manhood, to experimental albums like Because of the Times that lead them to the album that won them multiple Grammy awards , has KOL finally reached the end of the ride? If Mechanical Bull is any example, I would say probably not. It's easy to say that KOL has a few more left in them.
Sam Lowy is a musician, writer, actor, and comedian. He enjoys a nice cup of coffee and a good camping trip. Check out more of his work over at CrookedManners.com.