Friday, September 19, 2008

Review: Kings of Leon - Only By The Night (* * *)

Just last year, Kings of Leon released their fantastic third album Because Of The Times, one of my favorite rock records of 2007. Though they alienated a portion of their fan base (just read the iTunes reviews) with their smoother, arena-rock sound, it seems they had no trouble in gaining new followers. With their upcoming release Only By The Night, Kings of Leon continue to separate themselves from the gritty, dirty sound of their older material, opting for U2-esque guitars, polished production, and more ballads than you can shake a stick at. This time around I think I might be among the disillusioned.

That's not to say that Only By The Night is a terrible album, because it's not. Nor am I referring only to the stylistic changes, though that's part of my frustration. The real problem here is the uneven nature of the songwriting. Singer Caleb Followill, one of three brothers in the band along with their paternal cousin, turns in some of his finest vocal performances, but they seem wasted on the weaker material. In earlier albums, the lyrics were passable because they were simple and second to the music. Here, the lyrics get a chance to shine front-and-center and occasionally it's a problem. For instance, it’s possible to get away with lines like "So we dance all night, and dance all day, I say!” or “yeah, your sex is on fire!” but when sung with such fervor they become impossible to ignore.

Musically, when the band turns up the volume and brings the heat, the smoother new sound works. "Crawl," "Be Somebody," and "Sex On Fire" are solid rock songs which might not have the edge of the band's best, but the soaring vocals and big guitars are hard to resist. Unfortunately, the amplifiers don't get turned to '11' all that often, and when the pace slows, some of the songs seem tedious. The bland "Use Somebody," and the creepy, cowbell-heavy (thanks Bruce!) "I Want You" are the worst offenders. Though not all of the ballads are unsuccessful ("Notion" is fantastic), most of the remaining songs fall into the good-but-not-great category. Only By The Night just doesn’t reach frequently enough the standard set by its predecessors.

Kings of Leon are a talented band with great ambition, and Only By The Night is a decent album, especially if heard without referencing their previous work. It’s hard not to feel disappointed, though, when you know the band is capable of much more.

Favorite Tracks: “Crawl,” “Sex On Fire,” “Notion”


Oliver said...

Awesome blog!

I hated this album though

Chris N said...

I'm glad you like the blog!

And please, feel free to disagree or voice your opinion. I don't mind. I know this album is going to make some people VERY angry.

Nerkon said...

Convengamos algo, este es otro KOL con solo esbozos de lo que fueron sus innovadores trabajos previos.

La transiciĆ³n siempre es un peligro. Puede destruir o elevar (Radiohead) tu carrera...y pese a que inicialmente me vi sorprendido por un disco que no fue de todo mi agrado..debo confesar que con el paso del tiempo a logrado ganarse un espacio entre mis minutos de mp3.
...sera el camnio correcto de KOL.
Juzgue Ud...