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Sunday, May 22, 2011

15. Kings Of Leon: Aha Shake Heartbreak

Bear with me...

I recently watched the movie "Black Swan" (starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel) and loved that it had something for everybody. Here's how I see it...even if you didn't like the movie, you had to admit that it had it all. There was murder, sex, psychotic characters, human-to-animal transformation, club music, girl-girl "Bring It On"-type competition, and dancing...ballet en pointe. It was a psychological thriller centered around an 1877 Russian ballet! Wow! Girl or guy...if you couldn't find something in there that you liked, then there is no pleasing you.

Trace the evolution of Kings Of Leon and we find they too have something for everyone (not sure about the human-to-animal transformation though). There's the upbeat Southern rock and blues influenced albums from the early years (2003's Youth and Young Manhood and 2004's Aha Shake Heartbreak) when they were recently freed from the restrictions of their religious upbringings. There's the polished arena-rock sound of 2008's Only by the Night and 2010's Come Around Sundown. And right in the middle we have Because of the Times from 2007, which has a little bit of both. I'll take the risk and stereotype the early years as targeting and achieving more of a male audience ("Black Swan"). The later albums were apparently designed to attract the ladies ("White Swan").

KOL's second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, is a strong record. It's raw...raunchy blues, seeming countrified at times. Caleb Followill's unique vocals beg the question "Is he drunk, or did he just wake up?" It doesn't matter...you're probably one or the other when the desire to hear this album hits you. This album builds upon the southern-rock sounds of their debut. The band had no idea how to play their instruments in 2003...literally. Aha Shake Heartbreak is simple, musically, but it's still amazing how far they came in such a short time for this release. Prepare for most every song to rock your socks off in a seventies style...especially "Slow Night, So Long", "King Of The Rodeo", "Pistol Of Fire", "The Bucket", "Razz", and "Four Kicks". Much of their lyrics center around partying, fighting, sex, and insecurity...unleashing all of their pent up frustration and angst. This album comes from their hearts and loins, and the listener can feel this record as legitimate...it's not an effect.

Naturally, KOL was much more of a hit across the pond than here at home. It wasn't until KOL released their softer, more polished sound that they achieved commercial success here in America. I'm hoping, as many early fans of KOL probably are, that someday we'll experience a return to the early days of fire and debauchery. Until then, we have Aha Shake Heartbreak making the case that rock and roll is the voice of youth and desire...not classical training and effects. For Aha Shake Heartbreak, KOL's rock and roll is all "Black Swan" and no "White Swan". Here's the video to "Four Kicks" to emphasize that point.



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