I'm a little shocked by some of the mixed reviews this album has recieved. Yes its a little different from their previous albums but dont let that put you off. "Only By The Night" is a superb album. Many of the songs here are slower paced than expected but they are interesting experiments that showcase the wealth of talent these boys possess. The lead single, "Sex on Fire" is a 5-star song that perfectly reflects the type of gripping sexuality in so many Kings of Leon tracks exude but it is not reflective of the album which is thoughtful and deliberate, perhaps even pop / quasi-shoegaze in places (The spacey "Manhattan" is full of echoing guitars and floats along like a typical U2 song).
The album opens with the brilliantly claustrophobic "Closer", which flirts with industrial beeps and guitar effects like a poppier Nine Inch Nails song before shifting up a gear with a chunky riff in the next single "Crawl". "Use Somebody" is undoubtedly a stadium anthem for years to come with its Coldplay-esque backing vocals and bittersweet lyrics. Its a moment of sincerity from a band who often conjure imagery of girls wetter than New Orleans. Contrast that with the aggression and pride of "Be Somebody" and we have a song that hits all the right notes and succeeds at all its ambitions.
The slow pace of the album isnt a flaw. The songs dont overstay their welcome and the CD clocks in at 42mins, in fact it arguably contributes to the rich flavour of the album as a defiantly bold step from a band rocking festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. Its not perfect, there are some inevitable lulls but they dont last long.
I loved it. Sure a few more obvious "hits" would have been nice but you to admire the bravery of Kings of Leon. They dont care how the world judges them, they arent afraid to evolve their sound. It takes balls and as we all know, Kings of Leon know how to use them.
For the iPod playlist: "Closer", "Sex on Fire", "Use Somebody", "Be Somebody".
Verdict: **** (4/5)