Ageing is something that inevitably happens to everyone, and unfortunately for the Kings of Leon, instead of getting better like a good red wine, the band have instead become rather stale and flat in recent years, like an ancient glass of lager. I still claim that their debut, Youth and Young Manhood, is a simply excellent album that is stuffed full of raw energy and highly indulgent ideas. I love that these church-born boys from Tennessee came together to create an album detailing prostitutes, jealous boyfriends, crack cocaine and transvestites, and were so brash about it. Yet it pains me to admit that they’ve slowly lost that sense of confidence in themselves, and I’ve been placing a lot of hope on this new album after the atrocity that was Come Around Sundown two years ago. I can report that Mechanical Bull partially revives that old Kings spirit of dirty rock and blues, but it still gets bogged down by an abundance of bland anthems and a lack of creativity.
The album starts well enough with single ‘Supersoaker’ barrelling in, shedding guitar and confidently slamming out the percussion as you begin feeling optimistic about the whole affair. It’s a good song, with simple riffs and Caleb’s familiar whisky coated drawl regaling you with tales of silly girls and depraved boys. Follow-up ‘Rock city’ is also enjoyable; sounding bluesy from all the guitar feedback and the solo is immensely satisfying and meaty. This winning streak is continued by ‘Don’t Matter’; an unrelenting almost punk style rant, which mirrors a 70’s sense of disobedience that’s gleefully reminiscent of Bowie’s ‘Suffragette City’.
And then it all goes wrong, because the Kings start singing about vague lessons in love, which is when I sigh and wish they were still going on about their own incompetence. It’s a shame as it was all going so well and yet they can’t seem to resist slipping into meaningless and bland anthems that bore me to tears. With lyrics that sound like they were written in five minutes: ‘Love don’t mean nothing/unless there’s something worth fighting for’, and the guitars meekly stepping aside for Caleb to drone on, it’s almost soul-crushing. But next track ‘Temple’ provides some relief, with a refreshing dose of cohesive vocal and guitar melody and a decent guitar solo. Yet from here on out, aside from ‘Family Tree’’s catchy funk riff and lyrics recalling cheeky number ‘Holly Roller Novocaine’, the rest of the record remains a forgettable venture.
It seems that despite their best efforts, Mechanical Bull is a prime example as to why a band shouldn’t force out an album when they clearly aren’t enjoying making music together. There’s this feeling of desperation with how uninspired some of these tracks are, and it feels at times that they’re trying to regain that essence that made them so great back at the beginning, but there’s too much bitterness between them. Perhaps it would be for the best if the Kings of Leon finally went their separate ways and ended this charade.
To be released on 23rd September 2013 by RCA Records