”It’s the comeback story of a lifetime,” Caleb Followill yelps halfway through the Kings’ sixth album. And while the lyric isn’t explicitly about the foursome’s post-stardom troubles — you know, that notorious 2011 meltdown during which Caleb ditched his brothers-and-cousin bandmates on stage in the middle of a set, leading to an extended hiatus for the group — it’s hard to believe that line slipped in unknowingly.
And it doesn’t take long to realize he’s not lying. As the title hints, Mechanical Bull finds the Tennessee rockers recapturing the white-lightning-in-a-bottle spark that made their early stuff so fun; check out unbuttoned highlights ”Supersoaker” and ”Rock City,” which nicely recall the feral energy they had before they unwisely started tinkering with sprawling, U2-below-the-Mason-Dixon anthems. But the boys haven’t lost their stadium-size ambition, they’ve just refined it on shimmering epics like ”Tonight” and ”Comeback Story” (previously titled ”Walk a Mile”), which yields the couplet ”I walk a mile in your shoes/Now I’m a mile away, and I’ve got your shoes.” It’s a sneaky sucker punch of a line, and perfectly Kings-y.
It seems like the Followills — most of whom have started families of their own since 2010’s Come Around Sundown — are now playing to size again: a big, arena-worthy band with the licks to match. B+