Kings of Leon – Aha
by Zane Ewton
Second albums can be a tough proposition
for any band. The stakes rise, particularly when the debut album
received critical praise and strong sales. If this hurdle is not
high enough, Caleb Followill, lead singer of Kings of Leon, is quoted saying,
“We’ve all just grown so, so much and seen so many things.”
Growing up can be a problem. Maturity
can lead to stronger music or it can lead to middle-aged boredom.
Young, rowdy rock and roll bands can not afford to become mellow. Aha
Shake Heartbreak, the follow-up to Youth & Young Manhood
is a frustrating album. It is a smooth 30-something minutes of ringing
guitar, rock music. So smooth it passes you by without notice.
Frustrating, because you know it could be much better.
Initial listens propound on the feeling
that Kings of Leon is the southern rock Strokes. Simple guitar melodies
and beats give this comparison merit. But deeper listening brings
out the strengths of the band. Caleb’s vocals and lyrics are very
good. They help to give the band greater distinction.
Caleb’s first cousin Matthew has a guitar sound that hearkens back to Jimmy
Page on the Houses of the Holy track “The Song Remains the Same”.
While not a bad comparison, it doesn’t leave much room for innovation.
The first few songs on the album build
upon each other but the momentum levels off. Without the emotional
mountains and valleys, the album as a whole plays flatly. There are
great aspects of this band that just did not get a chance to fully develop
with a new album. Maybe they were playing it safe, but rock and roll
should never be safe.
“Slow Night, So Long’ is a quick introductory
song that employs all the King’s tools from the start. “King of the
Rodeo’ follows this same line, but Caleb’s vocals give the song a stronger
sense of urgency, bordering on a different language altogether.
“Taper Jean Girl” is the most memorable
track, but follows in line of the previous two. The roughest song
“Pistol of Fire” provides a glimpse of the greasy, driving rock and roll
that inspired the guys to start a band. It is followed by the bare
acoustic song “Milk” that zaps any excitement that band had built so far.
“Day Old Blues” is similar to “Milk” as a mellow track that is supposed
to show another side of the band but ultimately will get skipped.
These are followed by the rest of the album, all decent songs but nothing
It’s hard to listen to an able that you
want to like. The buzz around the band sounds good but the proof
is in the pudding and if the pudding doesn’t grab you by the ears and shake
your head, then it isn’t the best pudding it can be.
Hopefully, the band will be able to squeeze
past the sophomore slump and move on to bigger and better things.
Which they seem extremely capable of doing.
of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
to samples and Purchase this CD online
the Official Website for more on the band