Kings of Leon
Dan Winters

Release Date: Sept. 24
Label: RCA

Given the inauspicious ending of Kings of Leon's 2010 album cycle for "Come Around Sundown," when what could well have been a triumphant world tour ended abruptly in the summer of 2011 with a string of canceled shows and talk of internal turmoil, the band's return has been highly anticipated by both fans and the industry. The Kings—brothers Nathan, Caleb and Jared Followill and their cousin Matthew—buckled down in their Nashville studio with their longtime producer Angelo Petraglia to record "Mechanical Bull," which stays true not only to their traditional five-syllable album titles, but also the fiery chops that have made them one of the most promising bands to emerge in this millennium.

Showcasing both renewed vigor and maturation of its songwriting craft, the band's sixth release melds the raw power of its earliest work with the more textured, U2-influenced latter albums, and the result is a confident, hard-charging record that seems to be packed with potential singles in the vein of past hits like "Use Somebody" and "Sex on Fire." The album's debut single, "Supersoaker," is No. 10 on Billboard's Alternative chart, but deeper cuts are even more satisfying, most notably the greasy guitars and bad boy attitude of "Rock City," the nasty boogie shuffle "Family Tree," punk powerhouse "Don't Matter," the atmospheric ballad "Beautiful War" and the dreamy closer "On the Chin." On the whole, "Mechanical Bull" is strong stuff, and Kings of Leon—currently touring Europe with a North American run sure to follow—seem poised to resume their journey toward becoming the "boxed set" band they've always aspired to be.

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