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Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak

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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.”

Their tour schedule is below and then they open the first leg of U2’s North American tour, which will force U2 to bring their A-game every night. To get a free sample, they will appear on The Late Show with David Letterman on Feb. 22.

FEB 22 – NewYork, NY – Irving Plaza
FEB 23 – NewYork, NY – Webster Hall
FEB 25 – Philadelphia, PA – TLA
FEB 26 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
FEB 27 – Boston, MA – Paradise
MAR 02 – Toronto, ONT – Opera House
MAR 04 – Chicago, IL – Metro
MAR 05 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line
MAR 06 – Kansas City, MO – Beaumont Club
MAR 08 – St. Louis, MO – MS Nights
MAR 11 – Oklahoma City, OK – Bricktown Live
MAR 12 – Austin, TX – La Zona Rosa
MAR 13 – Dallas, TX – Gypsy Ball Room
MAR 15 – Houston, TX – Meridian
MAR 17 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
MAR 18 – Atlanta, GA – Roxy
MAR 19 – Birmingham, AL – Workplay
MAR 21 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    The Kings of Leon are right up there with Franz Ferdinand as a great British indie group, but they need to take themselves more seriously.

  • http://www.thebmrant.com Matt Egan

    How can Kings of Leon be a British indie group when they’re from Nashville?

  • Anna

    Caleb is mine. He is David Gilmour’s reincarnation. I will have him, bitches stay away.