Aha Shake Heartbreak – Kings of Leon

 Aha Shake Heartbreak

Kings of Leon

2005

RCA

 

Kings of Leon’s sophmore album Aha Shake Heartbreakbuilds upon their original album’s garage rock sound.  Featuring Caleb Followill’s sandpaper vocals (which believe it or not, is a pretty good thing), Matthew Followill’s melodic guitar lines, Jared’s (again a Followill, but as all four members of the band share this last name, I’m just gonna stop repeating it) impeccable bass lines, and Nathan’s solid drums, Aha doesn’t particulary bring the band into extremely new territory, but the album does develop their original style.

Album opener, “Slow Night, So Long” is a perfect song for this slot.  If you don’t think it rocks just from the verses alone, listen to the instrumental bridge, with its sense of “whatever, we’re just gonna bash some power chords and cymbals, we don’t need any lyrics.”  Then, after the song is over, the listener is treated to some latin flavor-groove that Kings tacked on out of nowhere, or so it seems, leading us directly into…

“King of the Rodeo.”  Quite possibly the best track on the album.  There’s really not that much to say about it, the rhythm guitar and lead guitar intertwine perfectly, the melody is extremely catchy, the bass is just pounding away solidly, and the guitar solo is simple and works well.  It’s a solid song that develops the band’s style.

The album keeps at its strong opening with “Taper Jean Girl”, where the album title comes from.  The verses keep a concentrated rock groove going, while the bridge slows it down (almost derailing the song – which in my opinion, is what makes the song work), before climaxing into the chorus near the end of the song.  Overall, a very well-built song.

Now, Kings bring in “Pistol of Fire”, another blues romp, that works perfectly for what it is.  And it’s Caleb’s vocals that utterly blow the listener away.  You might not be able to understand a word he sings (pretty much in any song ever), and for that matter you may not want to (“Go hug your sister / Go love your sister / Go hug your sister / One in the same”) (which by the way, for some reason i always hear “one in the same” as “banana peel”, which makes the song that much more interesting for me),  but he sings / yells it in such a convincing manner.  And the chorus he pierces with his “Ayigh.”  Just pure bliss.

Kings of Leon then move onto “Milk.”  It’s too slow, and doesn’t sound like them.  It’s just not a good song.  I do respect their decision for trying something completely different out, but it goes horribly, horribly wrong.  The lyrics make even less sense than usual, and Caleb just sounds like he’s whining half the time (If I wanted to listen to whining, I’d put on My Chemical Romance).  The music behind him sounds unenthused, especially with its start and stop theatrics, which might be why they sound so bored. 

Luckily, “The Bucket” brings back the band to it’s form.  The melody and ringing guitar definitely sound like Kings of Leon should.  It almost makes your forget that “Milk” even exists.

And then “Soft” starts playing, reminding the listener, that yes, “Milk” is a real song.  Not that “Soft” is bad, in fact, far from it.  It is what “Milk” should’ve been.  Again, Caleb sounds whiney, and the lyrics are pretty horrendous (“I danced around your folk and soul” Caleb rhymes with “I danced to all your f*ck*ng soul”), but this time, the rest of the band is there to pull him back, leading to a decent Kings of Leon rocker.  This is also the same format for “Razz” and “Velvet Snow.” 

Unfortunately, thrown into the last few songs of the album is “Day Old Blues” where again, Kings take a wrong turn.  At least its better than “Milk”, but it just comes across as insincere.  The chorus is too repetitive and isn’t catchy enough to save the song from its slow-tempo verses. 

Directly after this is “Four Kicks,” which is basically a dirty-thrashabout (a genre I completely made up right now, I kind of hope it enters into pop-culture…).  It comes in at a perfect time, for a dirty-thrashabout song is exactly what is desperately needed to pick the album up near the end.

And lastly is the vaguely, forgettable “Rememo.”  It’s a pretty decent song, just not one that stands out in any way, other than being the slow-tempo’d closing song.  It does well to serve as developmental song in Kings’ repertoire, but that’s about it.

Aha Shake Heartbreakis definitely an album worth listening to, especially for the first half or so, which has some of the best songs created by the Followill family.  If every song on the album was as kick-ass as “Pistol of Fire” or as catchy as “King of the Rodeo”,  Aha would be even better than Youth and Young Manhood, but being that Kings take too many risks outside of their developed genre, it falls short.  But the half of the album that is kick-ass and catchy shows a band that knows how to play to its strengths.

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