Kings of Leon
AHA SHAKE HEARTBREAK
The Followill family returns with 35 minutes of inventive, engaging rock that defies the sophomore album curse. The captivating music blasts its raw power out your speakers while the polished musicianship shines through. They are talented players not content to just go through the motions and spit out formulas. The songs sound different from each other and the main unifying factor is Caleb’s raspy voice, bringing to mind the late great Bon Scott, which grabs your attention due to its ferocity and passion, even if the vocals are difficult to decipher.
The true beauty of the album is that you don’t know what you are going to get one song to the next, nor even within a song. The opening track “Slow Night, So Long” starts slow and builds in momentum, kicking into high gear on the bridges with a ferocity and grandeur of The Who and for kicks there’s a strumming guitar reminiscent of Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same.” Jared’s bass work shines throughout. The music stops for a few seconds, resuming with a calypso-tinged coda.
The weakest element on the album is the lyrics. The stories are poems that come from the boys rise to fame. For every insightful perspective such as “girls are gonna love the way i toss my hair/boys are gonna hate the way i seem” from “Day Old Blues,” a slow number that brings to mind The Black Crowes, there’s clichéd lines like, “Fresh off the plane in my fuzzy rush/Everyone's gathered to idolize me” from “Bucket.” They are hard to identify with at times and occasionally the writing is incomprehensible.
A number of songs have to do with the women in their lives and on the road. Some of the lyrics are very vivid in capturing the moods like the devotion of the woman in “Milk” who will “loan you her toothbrush.” Also, I can appreciate the sincerity “Soft” because when do you hear rock stars sing about impotence? It’s good to see them being comfortable enough to write honestly about their lives.
Lazy critics keep referring to The Kings of Leon as Southern rockers, which is technically correct in regards to their Tennessee origins, but the term brings to mind bands like ‘70s classic rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, which they sound nothing like. They are much more adventurous musically and their sound has no geographic or temporal reference. The frenetic guitar work on “Velvet Snow” sounds like their contemporaries The Strokes, who they toured with last year. The album closer “Rememo” switches gears and creates atmospherics similar to Jane’s Addiction’s “Of Course.”
Aha Shake Heartbreak delivers a raucous good time and is something I’ll have in heavy rotation for a while. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. I’m already looking forward to their next album and at a measly 35 minutes it seems fair to expect it by the end of the year.