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on October 8, 2008
In several recent reviews, I've read Only By the Night decried as being "too commercial" or "too polished" and "straying too far from the Kings' signature sound". After a few listens, I've got to disagree with all of the above. As for the popular commercial appeal of this record, there is perhaps only one rock radio friendly single on this album and it's already peaked. "Sex on Fire" has been the Kings' most successful single to date. It has also been their most controversial, as far as their "old" fans are concerned.

"Sex of Fire" may not be the most sophisticated song, lyrically or musically, but neither were the Stones' "Satisfaction" or Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire". It's just a darn good, darn catchy straight up rock 'n' roll song. Furthermore, it's no more commercial than their last album's first single, "On Call"- arguably more of a departure from the Kings' established, musically raw style. Why folks get upset when a nominal indie band has a successful single that gets significant airplay on corporate rock radio is something that I can't quite understand. This is not arena rock, in a pejorative sense, at least. The Kings have not become the American Coldplay.

Yes, Only By the Night is slightly more polished and perhaps more melodic, in a conventional sense, than the King's earlier albums, but it still features the King's musical trademarks: alternating rambling and cyclical song structures, non-virtuoso guitar solos (not necessarily a bad thing), and a truly unique and unaffected vocal style. The album isn't more commercial, it's more accessible. Yes, they've attempted to add a few sonic layers to several of the songs, Closer first and foremost among them. For the most part, this experiment has paid off. Closer, in particular, achieves a "spooky" atmospheric quality unprecedented in the Kings' back catalogue.

I've read Crawl described as "Zepplinesque" but it sounds nothing like a Page/Plant creation. Instead, it calls to mind the Secret Machines' debut's throbbing synth/base loops. It is a propulsive song, chugging along like a runaway freight train rolling down the tracks at a leisurely 30mph- it doesn't move too fast, but you still can't stop it.

"Use Somebody" is perhaps the most poppy tune on the album. Once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. "Revelry" is perhaps the most melodic song on the album, if not the band's entire catalog. "Manhattan" too, is quite tuneful, if a bit more uptempo. "17" is probably the least sophisticated song on the record, lyrically at least, but it isn't unbearably so. Like most of the songs on this record, there is something strangely catchy about it. That, however, does not mean that the record is poppy. Its not.

My least favorite song on Only By The Night is "Be Somebody" which tends to ramble in a bad way. It is a Frankenstein's monster of several disparate hooks, the sum being less than its parts. However, this song is the only one of the album's 11 tracks that I'm ever tempted to skip. The last song on the album is the bleak but pretty "Cold Desert", a strong down-tempo finisher.

Adding a few keyboards and studio effects to the holy rock trinity of guitar, drums, and base is not a cardinal sin but the Kings are taking a licking from many critics and hipsterm fans for attempting to, rather modestly, broaden their sound. These attacks are unfair. I'm not comparing Only By the Night to either of these two albums but I wonder if the critics and fans complained that Sgt. Peppers or Pet Sounds were over produced or strayed too far from their respective creators' earlier works. More recently, even the rock minimalist Jack White has been experimenting with different arrangements, instruments, and overdubs on the last two White Stripes albums and, for the most part, received nothing but critical praise for it (if perhaps less commercial success than his previous releases).

Only By the Night is an attempt at musical growth. Maybe commercial success in America was a major motivator, but so what? The end result certainly justifies the means. And you've got to give these guys credit. Five strong albums in almost as many years is a rare achievement in this musical day and age. The fact that all of the Kings are under 30 years of old promises great things. Expect their next to be a musical masterpiece. In the meantime, enjoy Only By The Night for what it is- a pretty darn good album.
1515 comments| 117 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
It's only been a good year ago that Kings of Leon released their monster-sized album "Because of the Times", which ended up in my personal top 3 of the best albums of 2007. After releasing "Because of the Times", the band toured non-stop around the Americas and Europe, and so I was quite surprised to read a few months ago that a new album was already being finished for a Fall release. Here then comes the 4th studio album of Kings of Leon.

"Only By the Night" (11 tracks; 43 min.) continues the trail-blazing ways of "Because of the Times", if possible even more so. The radio singles "Crawl" and "Sex on Fire" are quite good but also a bit misleading, in the sense that there are a lot of epic "atmospheric" songs, with plenty of walls of (guitar) sounds. This band has become now more than ever an arena-sized band. The highlights for me include "Manhattan" (one of the tracks they played at their headlining show at Glastonbury earlier this summer in the UK), "17" (the days of the Beatles' innocent lines like "Well she was young and 17/Yeah you know what I mean" are long gone....), and the album closer "Cold Desert", but honestly I didn't hear any 'weak' tracks on here. The CD I bought came with a bonus live CD (7 tracks, 25 min.) from a performance of the band in April, 2007 at the Hammersmith Appolo in London, bringing 4 tracks from the then-new "Because of the Times" album, including a terrific "Fans" (a salute to the band's huge UK fan base), "My Party", and "Arizona", along with a couple of "Aha Shake Heartbreak" album tracks, just terrific. Seek it out if you can.

In all, "Only By the Night" is a great album. Is it as good as "Because of the Times"? Only time will tell: if I find myself playing this CD as much a year from now as I am still playing "Because of the Times", I will know the answer. Meanwhile, King of Leon's musical growth in just a matter of 4-5 years is simply amazing. "Youth and Young Manhood" and "Aha Shake Heartbreak" almost sound like they were made by a different band (don't ever call them the "Southern Strokes" again!). Last but not least, KoL are HUGE in Europe, particularly in the UK. I don't know whether they'll ever break as big here in the US, but certainly this album is better than 99% of the stuff released these days.
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on September 23, 2008
Many bands that stick around for more than 1 or 2 albums seem (IMHO) to follow a trend with two identifiable characteristics: (1) change, and (2) increasing commercial appeal. I think the complaints that "these guys aren't the Kings of Leon they used to be" are tedious and based on a ridiculous expectation. It's going to happen (if the band is any good and not Pearl Jam), so get over it. I don't really care whether 10 or 1,000,000 other people want to listen to the album, or even whether a band was explicit in attempting to target a larger audience. The proper questions, it seems to me, are: Is is it good? Do I like listening to it? Is it going to stay in my car stereo for more than a few days? My answers to the first two are: Yes! and Yes! I can't answer the third yet, but if their last album is any indication... probably so.
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on May 27, 2009
This album is appealing sensitive; the emotional terrain covered is subtle and complex, but Caleb's scruffy, impassioned voice keeps things from getting too soft. The album has a singer-songwriter feel to it because, well, the intensity of the album is found in the lyrics, melodies, and Caleb's voice. The Kings of Leon are touted up as a southern rock band, but the only traces of southern rock that I heard on this album were Caleb's singing style and the spirituality of it all. Otherwise, the instrumentals were pure indie/alternative (minimalistic instrumentals, lots of reverb.)

This album is not my kind of music typically, but I kept going back to it (4 listens) in the attempt to decipher what it "meant." The songs feel very personal and intimate, they sound like a soundtrack to Caleb's life. They're more compelling than catchy. Interestingly, by engendering repeated listens, they became the soundtrack to my life for a while. Cool trick. If you listen to these songs long enough, you will find yourself attaching them to specific moods and moments.

This album is great walking and thinking music. It's perfect for when you want some music to keep you company but you also need space to brood and muse. With this album, just pop in the earbuds and go. Now that I know these songs well, the listening experience is cathartic and pleasurable.

Last point . . . the overall vibe of this album is contemplative, but the variety is good. There's some uptempo stuff that will keep you from falling asleep, thinking too much, and walking too far . . .
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on December 16, 2008
Okay so im not normally a fan of rock & roll but ive been feeling to listen to music thats a little more edgy than pop & r&b lately.. I began to explore the indie & alternative rock music scene, primarily UK artists such as Muse, Keane etc.. I was on amazon's UK site browsing for rock music when 'Only by the night' came up as one of their best selling albums and the reviewer mentioned that Kings of Leon is one of the UK's favorite American rock bands. I was intrigued and decided to check the album out. When I received the CD i was blown away! The lead singers voice is so raw & full of SOUL! And the guitar harmonies jesus! Are these guys siamese triplets? The guitar sounds just blow my mind, the syncronicity between the vocals & the background musical harmonies is truly amazing. Its nice to have an album where every piece that is played - be it drums, bass, lead guitar or vocals stands out as being brilliant while no one really shows up the other. I also love the southern flavor to the music. This album is well balanced and fresh and edgy and has a nice rawness to it. Im a fan tracks like Sex on fire, 17 and Manhattan but truly I love them all! Its the first album i've heard in a long time I want to listen to over and over again :D Overall 5 stars! :D
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VINE VOICEon October 1, 2008
The Kings of Leon sound like they're going for broke here. While the previous album, Because of the Times, the slickness was creeping in but the wild hairs still had not been completely plucked (Example: the wild screeches on "Charmer"). However, for album four, the grease and the grit is all but vanished. The Followills still sound distinctly southern and still are a singular voice in the current pop population, but the songs here all sound like the edges have been sanded down.

That's not to say "Only By The Night" is a an album to avoid, far from it. On a level of consistency, it's easily better than "Because" and maybe better song for song than Aha Shake Heartbreak (my personal favorite KoL CD). The spacey groove of the opener "Closer" gets things off to a promising start and "Crawl" has a fuzzy crunch that is prime Followill. And while it is the catchiest thing on the disc, "Sex On Fire" is a bit pat.

Then comes the oddest moment, as the Kings go into full-on anthem mode for the single "Use Somebody." All those comments about the effects of touring with U2 all come to roost here, as the song aims Matthew Followill's guitar into the reverberated heavens and the vocals pile on like so many layers of home fries. It's the most obvious single the band has ever done, and then "I Want You" slinks along with another KoL song about dopey sex (think of "I'd come all over your party but I'm soft" on ASH or "you caught me with my pants down" from BotT) and swagger. And I love the picked solo here.

Along the lines of swagger, Caleb Followill has the cock of the walk rock singer style down on this CD. From the eerie wails of "Cold Desert" to the strutting confidence of "Be Somebody" and "Sex on Fire," he's becoming more and more assured a vocalist with each passing CD. Much like the gradual maturation of Chris Robinson's style as The Black Crowes kept on plugging, Caleb's voice just keeps growing richer without losing his southern roots. You can even understand most of the singing on "Only By The Night," and that's a good thing. Despite what some of the naysayers may have posted on the reviews, The Kings of Leon have gone four for four when it comes to making solid albums. This may be the Kings' smoothest album yet, but that does not make it a bad one. In fact, this may be one of 2008's best.
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In 2007 Kings of Leon released their monster-sized album "Because of the Times", which ended up in my personal top 3 of the best albums of 2007. After releasing "Because of the Times", the band toured non-stop around the Americas and Europe.

"Only By the Night" (11 tracks; 43 min.) continues the trail-blazing ways of "Because of the Times", if possible even more so. The radio singles "Crawl" and "Sex on Fire" are quite good but also a bit misleading, in the sense that there are a lot of epic "atmospheric" songs, with plenty of walls of (guitar) sounds. This band has become now more than ever an arena-sized band. The highlights for me first single "Crawl", "Manhattan", the mega-hit "Sex on Fire", "17" and the album closer "Cold Desert", but honestly I didn't hear any 'weak' tracks on here.

The bonus live CD (7 tracks, 25 min.) comes from a performance of the band in April, 2007 at the Hammersmith Appolo in London, bringing 4 tracks from the then-new "Because of the Times" album, including a terrific "Fans" (a salute to the band's huge UK fan base), "My Party", and "Arizona", along with a couple of "Aha Shake Heartbreak" album tracks, just terrific. Seek it out if you can.

In all, "Only By the Night" is a great album. King of Leon's musical growth in just a matter of 4-5 years is simply amazing. "Youth and Young Manhood" and "Aha Shake Heartbreak" almost sound like they were made by a different band (don't ever call them the "Southern Strokes" again!). Last but not least, KoL are HUGE in Europe, particularly in the UK, but it now looks like the band has hit the big time in the US as well, selling out the Madison Square Garden earlier this year. I saw KoL in January in Louisville, and will see them again later this month here in Cincinnati at the PNC Pavillion (the show is already sold out).
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on September 29, 2008
Just because there are fans who have "followed KOL from the beginning" that don't really like this album doesn't make it a bad album. In fact it's quite the opposite; they've made a restrained, beautiful with a few songs that still fill the need for raw southern angst. I think we are finally able to see what Caleb can do with the vocals on this record. In the previous records, which I did like but he did variations on a scream and here we get to here harmony and he is a little smoother and the guy has some killer pipes. He seems more in control of his voice. The instrumentation is sublime in parts and really fits the whole tone of the album. Look, it never fails that "fans" will always want a band to continuously repeat the same album of material over and over just so the "fans" can be happy. What about the band being happy? Did anyone bother to think of it from that angle? These guys are artists and an artist never wants to do the same thing for too long; it's called creativity. These guys went out on a creative limb for this record by making something that I believe they knew would not be received well by long time "fans" but they did it anyway because they're true to themselves and that honesty is all you can ask for from an artist. I think it took guts to make a record like this, coming from the albums they've had before and I think it is a huge success. Can't wait to see what comes next
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on September 28, 2008
This is a great record. Now, I can see from looking at the reviews here that there are two camps here, one that is comparing this album to the other 3 Kings albums and 1 that is taking this album for what it is and comparing to what is out there now and realizing that they are maturing as a band. No this album isn't as wild, loud or crazy as the previous three. But just as No Code was the essential coming of age maturing record in Pearl Jam's career and one that was very highly debated upon its release, so is "Only By The Night" in Kings of Leon's career. This album is great, and its greatness is only multiplied when you judge this album not by previous KOL recordings but judge on what is coming out now a days. The music scene is pretty much terrible right now and Kings of Leon give us true music lovers a reason to visit the record store.
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on September 24, 2008
Only by the Night is a lot different from the rest of the Kings of Leon albums, but after a quite a few listens, I really like the album now. The songs are slower than the first two albums, but like a few people have mentioned, the added reverb and production make the songs sound "bigger". If you listen to this album expecting Aha Shake Heartbreak, you will be turned off, but do like I did, listen to a few times and you probably will really start to like the songs and notice that they're catchy and full of energy. Trust me, I hate when bands sell out, but expecting most bands to change over time, I don't take it personally when their style does change. So for my two cents, this is a very good album. Its not the same KOL, but you can always listen to their old albums; Only By Night is its own sound and a well constructed one at that.
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