A week ago, the new Kings of Leon album, Only by the Night came out. Compared to the insane amount of text (ink?) spilled on the new My Morning Jacket album, not to mention that hip-hop instaclassic that droppsed a while ago, I thought it was unfair to let such a good record slip out semi-under the table.
The Rolling Stone review cast it in a pretty favorable light, but I was disappointed with Prefix on this one. But enough about other people!
From start to stop, the album is a groovy one. I hate to use such a cliche, dated word, but that's really the first thing I thought. When the vocals are great, they're only the icing on the cake. The rhythm section in the Followill boys' band has really stepped it up a notch. The first single "Sex on Fire" is a pretty good example, but for the best, you have to catch the halfway-point highlight "Manhattan."
When Youth and Young Manhood dropped, these guys were really riding a very specific train. Their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak was supposed to do good things for their careers, but it turned me off so much that I skipped the third one Because of the Times. Mainly for those reasons, I was a little wary of the music being put out by the fellows now. According to the reviews I've read from others of this album, though, I missed out on something very similar. It disappoints me to hear that, on one hand, but also excites me that I have another album along these lines to go out and discover.
Before this one was out, though, I was reading news that Kings of Leon considered this to be a political album but for the life of me, I can't figure out why now. This is a sex album! And it's not just the blatant jump for attention in the first single's name. The album starts with "Closer" which throws things into the bedroom right away. Atmospheric in that good way. "Crawl" is up next, which I guess I could see some politicism in the lyrics, but the ambiance of the guitars really plays over that aspect, in the best way possible. After the single, we have "Use Somebody," which sounds like a classic 80's love jam mixed with a cross between jam-band mentality and the more classic Southern sound they're famous for, before the twin peaks of "Manhattan" and "Revelry." I'm not going to lie and say it's a perfect album, because it starts to falter at this point, in my opinion, but the closer "Cold Desert" is a good one, if maybe a bit overlong. (It is the longest track on the album.)
Kings of Leon have seemingly been pegged for something they're not for their whole career. They came out around the time of the "The" bands (you know, The Strokes, The Vines, The Hives, etc.) but they weren't really anything like those guys. And I'm not really convinced they were ever interested in taking part in the so-called rock revival. I'm of the mind that, to them, rock didn't need reviving. In the south, it seems, they never abandoned this sort of music. It might have been hiding in different forms, but it was still there. And it is still there. Good stuff, go check it out.