Momentum is king in the music business. And at the moment Kings Of Leon have more of the stuff than a steam train carrying all of the unwanted copies of Razorlight‘s new single. Down a hill. Not so long ago they were your average sized indie act, scraping out a living packing 3,0000 people into a ‘insert-shitty-beer-here’ Academy and milling around the middle ground of festival line-ups like a particularly wary Labour MP at re-election time.
Now look at them. If last single Sex On Fire is anything to go by, they’re more popular than lesbianism. Lipstick lesbianism. And, more prosaically, filling stadia, headlining Glastonbury and selling records in a quantity that makes A&R men offer you their pants. And their kidneys. And their children.
But while the last record – Because Of The Times – was made by a band who weren’t currently in thrall to 80,000 people standing in a muddy field (and was all the better for it) Only By The Night Is. Whereas previously we opened with rolling 7+ minute epics minus anything approaching a chorus, here things begin so stadium friendly they should come with an overpriced programme.
Not necessarily a bad thing: Crawl pulses intriguingly towards the robotic funk of Muse, albeit crossed with the swampy Bayou undertow which Caleb’s yowl can’t help but give. The sleek Closer is all spotlighted solos and dry-ice atmospherics, and the elastic twang of Sex On Fire makes an undeniably great single.
At this point, you figure that KoL might just get away with it. That their rebirth into one of them there BIG bands is merely a matter of time. But you’d be wrong. Post that hat-trick of hits, Only By The Night totally hits the buffers.
Use Somebody is soft, flabby and leans heavily on Jared’s unfortunate tendency to resort to Edge-aping fretboard twiddling to fill out gaps. Manhattan sounds like the boys have been spending too long hanging around in hotel bars listening to jazz pastiches of themselves and 17 is Richard Marx doing All The Young Dudes. Badly.
By the time things labour to a close with the plodding Cold Desert, you feel duty bound to listen to the start of the album again: just to make sure that you didn’t imagine it and that yes, those first three songs were sort of ace.
Therein lies the problem with momentum. It can take you places you don’t want to go. This is an album which feels like it was made quickly, not because of artists reaching a terminal velocity of creativity, but to take maximum advantage of an audience who may not be there this time next year. Which is such a shame. But as the Kings look out over the sea of faces that will populate the enormodomes of their future, will they care?