Kings of Leon – Only by the Night

Kings of Leon
Only by the Night

A once sincere Southern-rock band with a heavy twinge of garage, last year’s Because of the Times saw Kings of Leon step out of the garage and into the arena. This is the same arena-styled rock that has worked grand success for bands such as U2 and Coldplay. And although you have probably already read a large chunk of comparisons referencing the former, Only by the Night is Kings of Leon’s tailored album for the mainstream. It’s a good album, one that will definitely win over a few fans, but at the same time, they will lose a few who wish the band still rocked hard and raw.

There is a certain polish to this album, one that hints at bigger and better things. The guitars gleam with a signature shine and the drums and cymbals pop with precision, and it all lends a helping hand to Caleb Followill’s unique singing style. I still have no idea what kind of accent it is and whether or not it’s genuine but his voice sounds fantastic on all of the songs here. This is especially apparent on the gloomy closer, “Cold Desert.” It’s laid out with howling screeches and a translucent guitar as Followill sings about sadness as the sun goes down.

Naysayers will whine about the band’s lyrical wordplay — or lack thereof — depending on which side your on. Lead single “Sex on Fire” is definitely not something Shakespeare would be proud of but it isn’t supposed to be taken as seriously either. I’m of the opinion that the dudes are in on their own jokes and the music is just too catchy, driven and terrific to get all caught up on lyrics about a hot, passionate night.

With nearly each song on the album being a winner, it looks like working fast to crank out another album in one year’s time paid off. Following in its predecessor’s footsteps, this is a much mellower and calmer sound. The album gets off to a tremendous start with the rhythmic music of “Closer,” fueled with melodic guitars, warbling electronics and Followill’s poignant singing: “She took my heart and she took my soul.” This same kind of ‘down on his luck’ character reappears on “Use Somebody” and it’s an interesting hand to play considering how much actual play the band gets in real life. Here, an angular guitar that recalls early 90s U2, plays secondhand to Followill’s distinctive vocals.

It’s hard to know how this album will age alongside Kings of Leon’s catalog because it sounds so good right off the bat. It rivals Aha Shake Heartbreak in consistently strong music and developing songwriting but it lacks its overall arousing jolt. Back then, you could tell these were guys out to have a great time; let’s rock and let’s rock hard. Any band can change their sound but I hope they are doing it for progression’s sake and not for sale’s sake. It’s a tight, very good album and although it’ll have its unfair share of detractors, like the rest of the band’s albums, it will shine no matter what.