Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Album Review: Only By the Night

The dark side to wearing skin tight jeans is that at some point, you start taking yourself seriously.

After spending the previous three albums singing about all the wang dang sweet poontang that's been hurled their way, Kings of Leon get introspective and swing for the arena rock rafters with their new album Only By the Night.

Night finds the band further embracing the atmospheric 80s rock explored on previous album Because of the Times to mixed effect.

When it works, you get haunting, thunderous rockers like "Be Somebody" or the Secret Machines-esque "Crawl" and moody mid-tempo songs like album opener "Closer".

When it doesn't work, you are stuck in power ballad hell with no escape. "Use Somebody" and "17" are cliched-ridden 80s arena epics that takes you back to some John Water's high school dance teen flick, only there's no irony.

What happened to these guys? KOL want to play to packed arenas in their homeland the way they do in Europe. The snarl and reckless disdain that made their debut Youth and Young Manhood and follow up Aha Shake Heartbreak so much fun have been replaced by Bono/Vedder-esque introspection and ham-fisted arena rock balladry.

KOL are best when they're rocking songs about partying, drugs and women and not worrying about the consequences. Album single "Sex on Fire" is pure proof of this: a bouncy rock riff and rhythm pinging off each other like something off of A Ha Shake Heartbreak, and a chorus that makes absolutely no sense, yet manages to seep into your subconscious until you are screaming "This sex is on fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire" to strangers on the street.

Despite not being as big in the USA as they are abroad, the Kings of Leon created a mystique with their first two albums that had music fans checking them out in increasing numbers. Aha Shake Heartbreak became the type of underground hipster album to throw on at a party like Paul's Boutique was during the 90s.

With Only By the Night, KOL (and most likely their record company) want to move some units. It's understandable to want to grow your audience and find success, but to embrace such horrifying musical cliches is a step in the wrong direction.

Is it about the music, the women or the money? For KOL, it was always about the women, then the music. Now it's about the money.

Purchase Only By The Night here from Amazon.

Kings of Leon will perform this Saturday on SNL. James Franco is the host.

1 comment:

J Smiley said...

Just heard Sex on Fire. It starts out ok but never really goes anywhere...