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October 6, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Kings of Leon – Only by the night

Never quite understanding why everyone went on about their 2004 breakthrough album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, I was first drawn to Kings of Leon via their third LP Because of the Times. Even though the ridiculous overplaying of lead single ‘On Call’ was enough to put anyone off listening to the whole album, ‘Charmer’ and ‘Fans’ intrigued me sufficiently and I discovered a marked improvement on previous work, although a disjointed one. Their fourth offering, Only by the Night, goes one better, capturing the Kings’ new direction while creating a definitive atmosphere that binds the album together strongly from start to finish.

On first listen, Only by the Night sounds dangerously top-heavy. Opening song ‘Closer’ immediately captures interest because it sounds so damn different from what you’d expect. Beginning with soft, lingering guitar notes before a sharp beat brings it back into focus, ‘Closer’ builds strongly into a crashing conclusion that signals the Followills’ heavier intentions for the album. This theme builds with ‘Crawl’, a pulsing track ripe with distorted bass, rock steady drums and a howling solo that channels the best of Jack White, mixing bluesy wails with just the right amount of shredding. Following with brilliant single ‘Sex on Fire’ and obvious follow up ‘Use Somebody’, the album couldn’t have started better.

Then comes the slightly-too-soft centre. Failing to build on the album’s growing energy, the middle triage of ‘Manhattan’, ‘Revelry’ and ‘17’ fall between styles and sound confused. As a result, they rely too much on Caleb Followill’s much improved voice to carry them and sound flat. Luckily, all is not lost. The overlapping guitars and light piano touches of ‘Notion’ and thumping rhythm of ‘Be Somebody’ bring the album back on track and help it regain its cohesiveness.

One of the most immediate positives found upon encountering Only by the Night is the vast improvement of vocalist Caleb’s voice. While previously sounding like it was deciding which wild animal to impersonate, here all the charm and uniqueness remain but have added clarity and melody. Guitarist Matthew Followill also sounds more accomplished and bold, willing to utilise a wide range of effects, with the rhythm section solid as ever. While losing its footing temporarily in the middle, a brilliant start and resounding ending do enough for Only by the Night to continue Kings of Leon’s evolution of ability and style, propelling them further along their upward musical journey.

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  1. I believe this review has changed the way I think about contemporary rock music,

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