Kings Of Leon

Mechanical Bull

Written by: TL on 16/11/2013 14:01:52

I can't say that I've been a devout appreciator of Kings Of Leon's entire discography, so I don't know if my perception of their career trajectory is entirely accurate, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who looked on a little bemused, when the band seemingly soared from "seems decent" to Coldplay-level mega-stardom, mostly on the back of two singles (the fact that I don't need to mention which two I'm talking about means that you follow me here). Regardless, the band got everybody's attention and I think the question for the world at large has since then been what the Nashville quartet is going to do with it. "Come Around Sundown", despite carrying the band onwards solidly, didn't really become the regularly revisited album for me that I thought it would upon reviewing it, but how about this year's "Mechanical Bull"?

Well, as much as it went that fans on the lookout for huge singles like "Sex On Fire" and "Use Somebody" came to "Come Around Sundown" in vain, this is even more true for "Mechanical Bull" which, despite not really changing the band's strongly defined roots- and blues inspired rock, sounds like music that belongs more in your living room than in your nearest stadium venue. The music you otherwise listen to would have to be pretty damn dull for you to call leading single "Supersoaker" more than moderately catchy, and in general, "Mechanical Bull" quickly becomes less interesting for super-sticky hits that it doesn't have anyway, and more so for the occasions where the Followill gang let some new nuances bleed into their style in the casual manner that only a band that already cashed in big time can muster.

The best examples of this come in "Don't Matter", which may sound a bit too much like the band trying to dress their sound up like Queens Of The Stone Age but with a cool result anyway, and in "Family Tree", which teases with a funky bass line and with lyrics and a mood that feel like something lightshy and sensual is going on. Not that lyrics are generally a strong suit on "Mechanical Bull", for as the otherwise uneventful "On The Chin" sees frontman Caleb chain smoking and day drinking, you get the feeling that most of the vague lyrics about attraction and despondency are ones he's come up with on the spot in rehearsal, not really concerning himself with setting up any coherent narrative so long as the words just fit the rhythm and the melody. There are occasional exceptions, like in the standout "Temple" which offers a charming mix of insecurity and bravado in spying a girl across the room and silently convincing yourself that you'd definitely put yourself in harms way for that one, or in "Comeback Story" which plays amusingly on the words "I walk a mile in your shoes /And now I'm a mile away /And I've got your shoes". But they're just that - exceptions - as you otherwise have to sport a pretty active imagination to connect the lines here with anything very specific.

Generally, the main impression I think most people will get from "Mechanical Bull" is that even at its best it's still a bit lazy and unambitious. The band deftly dishes up measured servings of their dusty, comfortable soundscape, but don't seem very interested in proving anything or putting anything across to the listener, eventually making the release feel like a very laid-back record that's most suited for occasions that call for listening experiences of the less than intense variety. This would be okay if the whole record was as colourful as its best offerings, but the truth is that of the thirteen tracks mentioned, the ones I haven't mentioned yet have the feel of pedestrian filler quality, meaning that a large part of the album feels uninspired and frankly, somewhat skip-worthy. You could say it's a typical career-sustainer for a band on Kings Of Leon's level then: A few interesting songs and then autopilot filler for the rest - And if I was of a snarkier disposition, I would probably wonder if the album had been self-consciously titled in recognition of exactly that.

Download: Don't Matter, Temple, Family Tree, Comeback Story
For The Fans Of: Cold War Kids, Young The Giant, Jack White

Release Date 24.09.2013

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