Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kings of Leon | Only By The Night

Forget worshipping at the altar of U2, Kings of Leon are straight up zealots on their fourth record, Only By The Night. If lead guitarist Matthew Followill would stomp any more on The Edge's signature delay pedal, they'd be jamming yesterday. Not that this family affair - Matthew the cousin, Caleb, Jared, and Nathan brothers - merely marauds.

A submarine sonar lead guitar opens the first track, "Closer." There is an ominous, haunted feel to the track that is magnified by Nathan's drumming. The song's rhythm isn't pegged as a backbeat or a downbeat; in fact, it is both. In the first bar of drums the beat is one-two-three-four; and in the second bar the beat is on the three, one-two-three-four. This two-bar pattern is repeated throughout the tune. This created a rhythmic imbalance that, instead of interrupting the rhythm, paradoxically adds to the lyrics's vampire anguish: "Driven by the strangle of vein/showing no mercy I'd do it again."

The album shifts from strength to strength in the first half. "Sex On Fire," the albums first single, is the best song on the record, and possibly the best song Kings of Leon have written thus far. As the bass and drum alchemy changes throughout the verses, expanding from chopped rhythms to fluid eighth notes and hi-hat hits, the chorus's topography becomes clearer. Caleb wails, "Your sex is on fire" as Matthew tears a melody from The Edge School of Poignant Guitar Dynamics.

Sandwiched between the doubtful wedding bells of "17" and the soul's dark night of "Cold Desert" are the weakest tracks on the record. Neither "Notion," "I Want You," or "Be Somebody" deliver the emotional impact that the rest of the album so earnestly does. The band's promise, though consistently improving record by record, has yet to be fulfilled. Stay tuned.

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