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The dust has settled... the results are in!,
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This review is from: Mechanical Bull (Audio CD)
The album has been out for the best part of two months, and we can now agree the dust has settled. The initial hype has died down - as have the usual criticisms that the band have sold themselves out - and I feel we can now subjectively look at what is, in truth, a very good album from Kings of Leon.
The album opens with a traditional KoL radio-friendly stomper - "Supersoaker". It is essentially a hyped-up rewrite of Radioactive, the lead single from the previous album, but it's poppy demeanour and fun-sounding energy mean it could quite happily slot anywhere amongst the band's material from 'Because Of The Times', which remains one of their most-loved records. It's definitely a stadium-designed song, and the sing-along chorus will ensure it asserts itself as a fans favourite in very little time.
It's a strong opener which then slips into track two: "Rock City", a bluesy number that echoes of the band's earlier work. Following this is one of the album's definite highlights: "Don't Matter". Distinctly heavier than the vast majority of the band's previous work, this is an absolute stomper that will get the crowds going. It's an eloquent mix of Sex Pistols-meet-Queens of the Stone Age punk, and it boasts some of the best guitar work we've had the pleasure of hearing from the talented Matthew Followill. Caleb, the lead singer, sounds absolutely evil in this song. It ranks amongst the band's most enjoyable songs yet.
"Beautiful War" follows; a song which is arguably the best of the lot as far as KoL are concerned. It is a slow number that echoes "Use Somebody" from 'Only By The Night', but the driving bassline and haunting backing vocals create a successful homage to a lot of U2's best material; indeed, the rhythm section shares a resemblance to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which, let's be fair, is certainly no bad thing.
Track five is "Temple", which is pleasant enough without being particularly memorable. Just when you think that the album might just follow the same path as "Come Around Sundown" and slip into mediocrity, it is rescued by "Wait For Me", another "Use Somebody"-esque anthem that features some ethereal guitar parts akin to "Manhattan" from the band's fourth album. It's the third major highlight of the album, and is most definitely likely to gather commercial success when it is inevitably released as a single.
The album only continues to improve - whilst previous KoL records have come unstuck with mediocrity plaguing their good work at the mid-way point, this album goes from strength to strength with "Comeback Story" and first "Family Tree". A Steve Wonder-inspired number, Jared's funky bassline acts as the backbone to a song sure to get the crowd moving, whilst it is another paint-by-numbers sing-along chorus that you can imagine being sung back to the band by a stadium of 50,000 beer-drinking fans! "Comeback Story" is a nod to the wonderful "Back Down South" from the previous record: it is a country tune which also features a beautiful orchestral composition during the chorus. It's a wonderful piece of work and represents the band doing what they do best; having fun - indeed, the lyric "I walk a mile in your shoes/ and now I'm a mile away/ and I've got your shoes' is a nod to KoL being at their mischievous best.
"Tonight" is track nine, and it echoes "The Immortals" from the last record. You can argue this is more of the same from the band, but it is a positive arena-friendly song that at least makes for pleasant hearing. "Coming Back Again" follows, which is a high-octane stomper akin to "Don't Matter", but with its abundance in "oh-ohs" during the chorus it'll serve as a crowd-pleaser without a doubt.
The album closes with the country song "On The Chin"; a strange choice to end on considering how pumped-up this album is in comparison to the mellowness of "Come Around Sundown", but it is another radio-friendly number that acknowledges the band's southern roots.
Bonus tracks include "Work on Me" and "Last Mile Home". You can see why they weren't included in the original release as they are pretty standard KoL works, but again, they make for pleasant listening.
The bottom line is that this is most definitely a very listenable album from the band. Yes, it is largely radio-friendly, but the diversity between some of the mellow country songs to the sheer hysteria of the likes of "Don't Panic", and to stadium stompers like "Supersoaker". The range of song styles is great without offering anything particularly new; but if it ain't broke, why fix it? Overall this represents a return to form for the band, offering their most complete record since 'Only By The Night', but perhaps their most revolutionary work since their third record was released, way back in 2007. It is an album that does have a few forgettable moments - the ending is a little inconspicuous, and whilst songs like "Temple" and "Rock City" are listenable without being particularly memorable, the abundance of high points - "Supersoaker", "Don't Matter", "Beautiful War", "Wait For Me", "Comeback Story" and "Family Tree" are sure to become staples in the band's live performances for many years to come.