However, somewhere between 2005's Aha Shake Heartbreak and last year's Because Of The Times things began to change for the Followill clan. The group figured they had two choices - either they could burn out and end up working as house-painters in Tennessee, or they could have a crack at becoming a serious, U2-style rock act that headlined festivals and wowed arenas. Opting for the later, the beards were shaved off and their 2D garage rock morphed into something more supple, atmospheric and textured.
Because Of The Times set a high watermark for the Kings - one that weighs heavily on Only By The Night. The band promoted the earlier album with an old-fashioned slog of touring, turning it into a slow-burn smash. As they advanced to festival headliner status, the Followills quickly began to work on a follow-up to capitalise on the surging interest. The resulting album sees them take the final steps from whiskey-stained blues boogie merchants to widescreen stadium blazers.
Aside from lead single 'Sex On Fire', a track that wouldn't be out of place on their scraggly debut, all the songs here aim for epic, cigarette lighter-waving greatness. The tidal wave of glitchy guitars on opening number 'Closer' segues perfectly into the sludgy swamp-rock of 'Crawl', a track that sounds like a find from a long lost Led Zep session. To be honest, the album's first four tracks alone justify the Kings' status as America's greatest current rock export.
But the undoubted album highlight is track number four, 'Use Somebody', a rumbling power ballad that swerves and surges before erupting in a crescendo to match Springsteen in his pomp. The swirling backing vocals and Caleb's croaked refrain, "I could use somebody... like you!", are the sugary-sweet icing on the cake. Elsewhere, the band successfully undercut the earnestness of their brooding tunes with tales of lovesick vampires ('Closer'), partying ('Manhattan') and tantalising females ('17'). The latter in particular proves the Followills haven't lost their taste for filth, with Caleb declaring: "It was the rolling of your Spanish tongue that made me want to stay."
Night's slightly flaky middle section - 'Notion' and 'I Want You' are plodding B-sides at best - prevents it from reaching classic status, but it regularly brushes close. Perhaps what's most exciting about this record is that it suggests the band could still get better. With their peculiar beginnings long forgotten, Kings of Leon are now heading in the direction of greatness.