Kings of Leon
You can never be too sure about Kings of Leon. They often buy into a prescribed persona and become the characters they're meant to portray. When drummer Nathan Followill said in the lead-up to Mechanical Bull that the band had to "…go back to the blueprint of what we did on our first album," it's worth wondering if the record is an attempt by the Kings to gain back the indie cred they once flirted with or if they're straight up out of ideas. With every angle for the group now exhausted, they've let their songwriting do the talking on Mechanical Bull. What emerges is the sound of a group panicking in a last ditch effort to be taken seriously. Mechanical Bull pulls out all the stops once associated with the Kings: tales of drug-induced wandering set to a catchy clap-along beat on "Rock City" and the up-tempo, driving wail of "Don't Matter," complete with Caleb Followill revisiting his old snarl. Even the most discerning of hipsters will be able to sing along to the made-for-radio "Temple," but who are these Kings now? Mechanical Bull suggests they have trouble figuring that out themselves. Full of simplistic, hastily constructed tracks, it's as if they haven't learned a thing from their decade. At its best, Mechanical Bull is standard, paint-by-numbers fare that attempts to sprint to the finish line. However, it runs out of gas and you have to wonder if Kings of Leon have as well.
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