Three years after the Kings of Leon's last record, the edgy, gravely rock foursome return in top shape with "Mechanical Bull."
The album takes the band's unique sound — the recognizable longing guitars and Caleb Followill's growl — and adds a hint of melancholy and a stillness that gives the songs an aura of contentment.
Nervy desire and wildness is still present in their music, most prominently in "Tonight," with its sexy vibes of earlier hits that hinted at mad tumbling into lust, and in the obsessive strummings of "Wait for Me." The playful notes of the first single, "Supersoaker," set the tone, adding a sense of giddiness to the proceedings.
"Don't Matter" goes full-on rock in the beginning but is gradually imbued with a hint of Billy Joel. "Temple" starts out noisily and morphs into the confident stage presence of a rock star. "Beautiful War" rounds up the sound with a heartfelt ballad that showcases Caleb's voice. And "Family Tree" sounds like an old man trying to give advice to the young, who think they know better than everyone else.
Despite tackling the familiar themes of drunken nights and tentative love, the songs weave the story of a man who knows the meaning of being lost and who has finally been found. "Mechanical Bull" isn't the anguished edgy ride you'd expect from Kings of Leon but a fun, stirring experience you don't want to end.