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September 27, 2008,
Record No. 4 finds Tennessee's most famous rock'n'roll Pentecostals tamping down the hillbilly stomp in favor of more measured, midtempo numbers that simmer more than scorch. "Only by the Night" requires some patience; it sounds a little like one 43-minute medium-simmer track on first listen but begins to reveal its charms on subsequent ones, like the melancholy howl of first single "Sex on Fire," the late-night boil on "Revelry" and the meaty rocker "Notion." There are a few head-scratchers, chief among them the quasi-ballad "Use Somebody," which indicates someone has been absorbing himself some serious Coldplay, and a sense of bruising earnestness has replaced the band's old red-state rock. But singer Caleb Followill has never been in better command of his beyond-his-years howl, and he's got monster hooks and melodies yet in his bottle of tricks. —Jeff Vrabel


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