on 18 February 2005
Yodelling, calypso, jazz and songs about impotence... You would never believe they could make it sound this good... It seems easy to forget now but there was once a time - sometime before the musical atrocity that is Jet - when the concept of a group of long haired skinny white boys, dressed with thrift-store chic and recycling 70's riffs seemed like genuinely the most exciting thing since... well, since it happened the last time.
And then came along The Strokes, swiftly followed by The White Stripes, The Vines, The Hives, BRMC... We got so carried away that even The Datsuns were hailed as the new, "saviours of rock'n'roll" for a day or two. Relative latecomers to the scene, Kings of Leon seemed to be just another band who rolled off the production line with clothes, hair, and a background story just a little too good to be for real.
Whether the family Followill really are the offspring of an alcoholic preacher who spent their formative years travelling the south to spread word of the good lord, we'll probably never know. However, if there was ever any doubt about the honesty of their musical convictions, Aha Shake Heartbreak should help dispel it. First things first, this is no rock'n'roll party album in the vein of Youth and Young Manhood. As fine a record as that was, the Kings have progressed, and done it with great style and taste.
Somehow the Kings have managed to return with an album that appears to be the difficult second album and post-fame downbeat comedown record rolled into one, but have defied all logic by making it sound compellingly brilliant. Opener 'Slow Night, So Long' sets the tone, introducing itself with chiming chords reminiscent of Joy Division with a Peter Hook-esque bassline to match. After building up to a climax that rocks like The Who it then fades out into a beautiful piano led calypso coda with Caleb singing: "Rise and shine all you gold-digging mothers." Truly this is one extraordinary and adventurous record.
They are still capable of rocking like Lynyrd Skynyrd - 'Velvet Snow' is easily the match of 'Molly's Chambers'. But the tracks that really shine are the ones that sound completely removed from the old 'new rock revolution'. 'King of the Rodeo' has got a chorus that you wont be able to get out of your head for days; 'Day Old Blues' will make you seriously wonder why no-one has ever thought of mixing yodelling and rock'n'roll before and there will not be a song released this year with a more funky bassline than 'Razz'.
In Aha Shake Heartbreak the Kings have managed to do what no one could have dared hope. Where The Strokes, The Vines and countless others have failed, the Followills have transcended the retrogressive scene that gave birth to them and developed into a truly special and unique band.
on 16 October 2005
Kings of Leon may claim a preposterous history and have a reputation of being party-hard immature youths, but their music speaks depths of their true genius. Their second album, "A-Ha Shake Heartbreak", is both a clear improvement on their already incredibly good first offering ("Youth and Young Manhood")and proof of a real understanding of what rock is really about.
And not only do Kings of Leon know the meaning of rock, but also know how to help it evolve. Just listen to the first track on the album, 'Slow Night, So Long', which although has less immediate impact than the opener on "YAYM", brings their original sound to new levels. No one could have expected the jazzy, sombre feel of the ending section. I was amazed, and loved them more with every passing chord.
The third track, 'Taper Jean Girl', as well as being my personal favourite, proves that Kings of Leon know exactly what direction they are headed. It is confident, rhythmic and has, in my opinion anyway, one of the greatest riffs in any rock song in the past decade. A stunning song.
'The Bucket' is another obvious strongpoint, but unexpectedly (if not for the yodelling)'Day Old Blues'is quite enjoyable, and 'Pistol of Fire' and 'King of the Rodeo' also live up to this standard. There are no fillers. No weak songs. Kings of Leon are determined to make an impression on the world of rock, and who knows, with this album, they might even change it.
on 22 May 2007
After the impact of their brilliant debut album, the Kings' follow-up album was eagerly anticipated. And they delivered BIG time!
Aha Shake Heartbreak (though an odd name for an album) simply solidifies the thoughts among many (myself included) that the KOL are the best rock band to have come out of America for a long, long time.
It is chock-full of lively, driving numbers, awash with Caleb's Southern, twangy drawl, Nathan's snappy and precise drumming (check out "Velvet Snow") and Matthew and Jared's solid bass-lines and catchy riffing.
Top tracks include "Slow Night, So Long", "The Bucket", "Velvet Snow" and "Taper Jean Girl". "Milk" is a bit of an odd song as it's hard to understand what the opening lyrics are about, but it does build up well and is a good contrast to the others. And if there is a low-point, I would say it was "Day Old Blues", which just seems out of place. The pace of the album overall matches "Youth and Young Manhood" but my one criticism is that a lot of the songs are just too short and seem to be a bit rushed through.
Is it better than their debut? Personally I don't think so. (It certainly doesn't "[...] all over Youth and Young Manhood" like NME claimed it would). But it is a brilliant album, cementing the Kings' status as one of the top bands in the world today.
on 25 October 2004
The Kings of Leon stormed onto the stage with there stunning, if slightly 1 dimensional debut. There has been many debates this summer as to whether they would be able to produce a quality second album. Well they have, its as simple as that.
Aha Shake Heartbreak is the album that we all hoped it would be and more. From listening to it it appears to be more personal to them. The songwriting is far more advanced the guitar riffs are excellent. The genius is that they have still retained the same elements of te first album which made it so sucessfull. The Kings of Leon are the best thing to come out of the USA for a long time and this album further proves that.
My personal favourites on the album are the new single 'The Bucket', which is the most original sounding song on the cd. My other highlights are 'Razz', which has the coolest bass line, 'Pistol of Fire', 'Soft' and 'Milk'
If you loved the first cd then you will adore this cd. If you didnt like Youth and Young Manhood then you will love this cd. Its as simple as that. Caleb and the gang have written a corker. Make no mistake, the Kings of Leon are back!!
on 31 January 2005
A-Ha Shake Heartbreak is one of those albums that surpasses the first album by a long way. It is an excellent follow-up to Youth and Young Manhood and shows much more diversity in the band's music. It shows they have much more to offer, musically. Openers, Slow Night, So Long and King Of The Rodeo are more of the typical Kings of Leon style Southern rock seen on the first album. Pistol of Fire and Taper Jean Girl combine some great lyrics with catchy guitar riffs. The exceptional Milk shows a more sensitive side to the band's music with its slow acoustic guitar opening. Up next comes The Bucket one of my personal favourite tracks and the song that made me buy the album. The Bucket combines Strokes style riffs with Kings of Leon's excellent songwriting. Soft is a song which demonstrates how the band have gone for more diversity on this album, a catchy melody and a great chorus make for good listening. Razz, Velvet Snow and Four Kicks are all great short and sharp songs, fast and immediate, in a good way. Day Old Blue is a brilliant slow song with a catchy chorus, sensitive lyrics and a good acoustic guitar melody. Like Milk, it is one of those songs that stays in your mind and keeps you hooked. Rememo is another slower song with a good bassline and some well written lyrics. The album ends with Where Nobody Knows, a worthy ending to an excellent album. A-ha Shake Heartbreak is an extremely impressive succesor to Youth and Young Manhood. It shows an evident musical progression in the band and a much more diverse range of styles. From the fast and furious songs tot he slower songs, I can say there is not a bad track on the album. Therefore, I don't have a specific standout track as every song is as good as the next.
on 2 November 2004
I've been reading some strange stuff about Kings Of Leon recently. After all the hype, rave reviews and plaudits heaped upon them since the summer of 2003, it seems that certain publications are calling them bland, 'samey' and other such tags. Considering most of the media hailed them as "one of the most exciting rock and roll bands in a generation" and the debut album 'Youth and Young Manhood' as "perhaps one of the greatest debut albums from an American band", these seems like quite a paradox.
Well, they can stop doing reviews for crap mags and gutter press now, as this follow-up album not only doesn't disappoint but is simply stunning.
I had reserved judgement after the slow burning single 'The Bucket' falied to truly ignite my hopes, but some of tracks on this are devastatingly rocking. Hooks a plenty in much of it (as is a trademark of the Kings sound) but mixed-up with some ricocheting tempos in tunes and subtle build-up in some tunes make this a far more diverse affair.
Get one of 2004's most accomplished and surprising albums from a band that need prove very little to anyone now. Yee-haw!
on 6 November 2004
I waited for this album with a deal of apprehension. 'Youth and Young Manhood' had been a truly great album and as with any follow-up to such a thing, could they keep it up?
I needn't have worried.
Its a slow burner, getting better with every play. I have it in the car, in work, on my ipod, at home, I don't want to listen to anything else. Best tracks are 'Pistol of Fire', 'Soft', 'Day Old Blues' (just how catchy is that, for Cliff's sake?)) and the best of the best, 'Velvet Snow'. Buy it, kids - it'll be the best Eight-Fifty (four-ninty five now, heh-heh) you've spent this year except their new one which is even better :)
on 1 April 2013
In the process of replacing albums that have either walked out of my house on their own or not returned when lent out, or when they were returned they weren't in the best of condition. Been buying second hand albums and so far I've been really pleased with what I've bought. No complaints. Wouldn't have replaced them if I had to pay full price so I'm very happy that Amazon has given me the opportunity to do this.
on 7 January 2005
Good, solid album from the kings. Bought this through a recommendation from a friend, and I'm glad. Indie/rock isn't my normal scene, hence the 4*, but I thorougly enjoy this album. I also like writing a review on the music and not how annoying a copy protection is, surely this is what a review is all about. My fairly cheap CD player plays it great and I don't mind that I can't burn it and upload it 700 times, it makes it special, and the quality is not bad at all. And if I need to play it in the car, I take it to the car and play it, it's quite simple.
on 13 November 2004
In an era were we see our biggest rock and indie hopes exactly replicating their tightly produced long-players in their exact form, we are left to the shambolic likes of the Kings of Leon to make their records sound like you've just dusted it off in your uncle's loft and found out they were more than just a slightly balding source of money. However, in their second album, we find the Kings sounding oh so very much like their New York counterparts the Strokes. Sure, the southern drawl of Caleb is still there, as are the blues licks, but the band seem tighter, more polyphonic than alcoholic, and more intent on crafting songs than just rocking them.
Not that this is a band thing, of-course. Where you once listened to 'Youth and Young Manhood' and heard quite a consistent album, where even the ballads were medium tempo blues, 'Aha Shake Heartbreak' is more varied and interesting. See 'Milk' as an example. Beginning very simply with just an acoustic guitar and Caleb begging an unknown to 'stay with me', the piece slowly builds up, through use of guitars, drums, and even (SHOCK!) a synthesiser to enhance the performance. Lead single 'The Bucket' is another prime example. Classic Strokes sounding guitars (see 'Reptilia', and it sounds very similar).
This isn't to say the Kings aren't bluesy any more. 'Razz' has a bass line James Brown would do the splits for, while 'Four Kicks' could fit into any AC/DC record, with the best guitar solo ever heard by KOL. However, the present of the Strokes production sound means it's not as immediate as 'Youth and Young Manhood', but give it a chance, and 'Aha Shake Heartbreake' will grow on you. Just make sure it's kept alongside the debut.