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Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
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 unforgettable.

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.
 
 


CD Info 

Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
Label: RCA
Rating
 
Tracks:
Slow Night, So Long
King Of The Rodeo
Taper Jean Girl
Pistol Of Fire
Milk
Bucket, The
Soft
Razz
Day Old Blues
Four Kicks
Velvet Snow
Rememo
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online


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Visit the Official Website for more on the band

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