Sound — 5
Let me start by saying that I love the Kings Of Leon, but I am a relatively recent fan, having only discovered them around early 2008. Even so, I've listened to their entire discography and I can conclusively say this is without a doubt their worst album. Of course it's not a bad album, in fact, I'm sure on it's own it seems quite good, but compared to any of their earlier records it really falls short. The sound is noticeably stadium sized, continuing from a trend started on 3rd album because of the times. But where that album was soulful, varied and original, this album is disappointingly stale, simply throwing out one lukewarm stadium filler after another. Songs like revelry and 17 float by pretty meaninglessly and even the albums high points (crawl, cold desert, closer) are no more than moderately good. This fact is not helped by the fact that both singles have, at time of writing, been played consistently on radio and TV for 6 solid months. Overall, the Kings of Leon's sound has become bleak and a bit dull, the fast and slow songs are gone, replaced by a constant mid tempo dirge. Calebs vocals have lost their edge and the "post punk" guitar noises simply don't suit them at all. True, the rhythm section is generally interesting and driving, but that's something to be expected from a good band, rather than praised.
Lyrics — 7
Funnily enough, lyrics are the one area which the album does relatively well at. The fact that the album was mostly written under the influence of painkillers is evident in the style of many of the songs and as a result the lyrics are often quite dreamy and vague. This is no bad thing, they contain some nice imagery and suit the songs well. Calebs voice has also adopted an interesting variation on the crazed yodel/hard rock growl of past albums, singing soulfully with genuine clarity. However, with this he also manages to lose a lot of the anger and energy that drove their earlier work, which just makes the album seem commercial and generally lacking in heart.
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, Only By The Night is a disappointment. It's probably worth buying for the 4 or 5 tracks on it which are genuinely good, but doesn't stand up to expectations and worst of all, only gets more disappointing with time. I will concede that I'm not a fan of stadium rock and perhaps this album is just not right for me. But when you consider that this doesn't even come close to the equally stadium sized Because of the Times, it seems that the Kings of Leon are worse than intalented, they are lazy. For that reason alone, I cannot recommend this album to anyone who doesn't already possess the other 3 kings of leon albums (which are brilliant).