Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kings of Leon, ‘Only By the Night’

I’m a fan of the Kings of Leon’s progression as a band over the past several albums, going from down-and-dirty semi-garage rockers to down-and-dirty spacey rockers. Their latest release, “Only By the Night” continues that evolution; it definitely sounds more like the last record, 2007’s “Because of the Times” (my KOL favorite) than 2004’s “Aha Shake Heartbreak.”

“Only By the Night’s” first half is particularly compelling in its variety, moving from arena-ready opener “Closer” to the one-two punch of grab-you-by-the-throat “Crawl” (one of the band’s best-ever tracks) and sinewy lead single “Sex on Fire.” “Use Somebody” is another winner, a chiming mid-tempo anthem that sounds like KOL’s take on U2’s “Beautiful Day.” “Manhattan” is catchy as all get-out with its off-kilter bass/percussion rhythm, and “Revelry” is probably as pleasant a ballad as the band can write.

It’s the second half of “Only By the Night” where things start to slip. None of the remaining five tracks are bad, necessarily, but they don’t do much to stand out from the pack, either. They’re the kind of songs that wouldn’t get skipped if they shuffled up on my iPod, but wouldn’t do much to keep me awake on a long car ride—all a bit slow and dirge-like. “Be Somebody” is probably the best of the bunch, especially when it breaks down into something reminiscent of Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose.”

Overall, the album still holds together well, and marks a continued transition for the four bandmembers (three brothers and a cousin) as they begin to leave their raucous and reckless 20s behind and figure out how to settle into their 30s and still write music they like. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

Grade: B

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