The Kings of Leon’s first three albums established them as critical darlings and British favs, despite their distinctively U.S. roots, having come out of Tennessee. All three albums hit one of the top 3 slots of the U.K. charts while they racked up six top 25 hits. However, in the U.S., while each album had improved on the former’s success, the Kings still made little waves at radio, having only hit the modern rock charts once with minor hit “The Bucket.”
On the band’s third album, “2007’s Because of the Times, Kings of Leon ventured out of the garage and into the arena” AL and Only by the Night “furthered the epic sound that Times introduced, flaunting a set of ringing guitars and radio-ready melodies that pushed the band away from the Allman Brothers’ camp.” AL “Like many big-sounding albums, Only by the Night is a polarizing piece of work, one that targets new fans at the expense of those who wish Kings of Leon had never shaved their beards or discovered post-‘70s rock.” AL Yes, they take “a turn for the heavily polished here, but what the album lacks in rough-edged raunch, it more than makes up for in earnestness and – yes – stunning beauty.” JK
Like its predecessor, it topped the U.K. charts, but Night was even bigger; it charted over a year and became the biggest selling digital album of all-time there. WK In the U.S., it gave the band its first top ten album when it debuted at #5. On the strength of singles Sex on Fire and Use Somebody, the album went platinum and nearly a year into its run actually bested its debut week.
“Sex on Fire” was a #1 in the U.K. and on the U.S. modern rock chart. It “makes up for its goofy title with a meteoric chorus tailored to Caleb’s voice.” In fact, throughout the album, “Caleb emotes with a dramatic grit that never loses its command.” JK
AL However, it was the multi-format smash “Use Somebody” that really put the Kings in the minds of the general populus. The song wasn’t just commercially successful; it also won Grammys for Record of the Year, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
On “Use Somebody” and Manhattan, “Matthew Followill cloaks his guitar riffs in reverb and bassist Jared Followill takes the spotlight sporadically, popping up for quick melodic fills before ducking back into the mix.” AL When it comes to that “trading off of melodic lines between instruments, …Jared… is the album’s quiet MVP.” JK
“While past Kings of Leon albums concerned themselves with alcohol, women, and other hedonistic themes, those two songs are nothing but pop/rock grandeur, and Caleb howls their hopeful lyrics like Bono’s American-born cousin.” AL
“Crawl flexes the band’s rock & roll muscle, melding Led Zeppelin-styled crunch with the experimental guitar buzz of U2’s Achtung Baby.” AL
“Only by the Night focuses on textures and experimentation during the album's latter half, but most songs still deliver some sort of Technicolor melody, from Notion (one of the only tracks featuring piano) to the unexpected chorus of Be Somebody.” AL
“Taken as a whole, Only by the Night targets the audience that approved Kings of Leon’s sonic shift in 2007, leaving older fans free to damn these tracks for their consciously grand approach. Yes, the album is often cheesy. Yes, some of the more popular songs lost their luster after endless months of radioplay. But Only by the Night remains a potent Kings of Leon record, and the guys have never defined their ambition so clearly.” AL It is “a model of melodic rock composition, arranged and produced with a warm, inviting veneer, and performed with aching sincerity.” JK “These 11 tracks coalesce into a sanguine whole that eclipses the band’s much-discussed rock posturing and yields more with every play.” JK “Only by the Night (finally) establishes Kings of Leon as a rock act that’s worthy of seriously sustained attention.” JK