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Kings of Leon: A-Ha Shake Heartbreak
||Garage Rock, Southern Rock
||Ethan Johns & Angelo Petraglia
|Price in €:
 Slow Night, So Long (Kings of Leon) - 2:40 / 3:54 *
 King of the Rodeo (Kings of Leon) - 2:25
 Taper Jean Girl (Kings of Leon) - 3:05
 Pistol of Fire (Kings of Leon) - 2:20
 Milk (Kings of Leon) - 4:00
 The Bucket (Kings of Leon) - 2:55
 Soft (Kings of Leon) - 2:59
 Razz (Kings of Leon) - 2:15
 Day Old Blues (Kings of Leon) - 3:33
 Four Kicks (Kings of Leon) - 2:09
 Velvet Snow (Kings of Leon) - 2:11
 Rememo (Kings of Leon) - 3:23
 Where Nobody Knows [Bonus Track] (Kings of Leon) - 2:24
* - Hidden song "Too Good to Tango - 1:14" in .
Caleb Followill - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Pipe
Matthew Followill - Lead Guitar
Jared Followill - Bass Guitar
Nathan Followill - Drums, Vocals
Ethan Johns - Audio Production, Engineer, Keyboards, Mixing, Piano, Producer
Angelo Petraglia - Audio Production, Producer
Jacquire King - Engineer, Mixing
Robert Fulps - Assistant Engineer
Chris Reynolds - Assistant
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Robin C. Hendrickson - Art Direction
Brett Kilroe - Art Direction
Dan Winters - Photography
Jo McCaughey - Photography
Steve Ralbovsky - A&R
Ken Levitan - Management
Emily Deaderick - Publicity
Jakub Blackman - Publicity
Ken Weinstein - Publicity
Recorded in April-June 2004 at Three Crows Studios in Los Angeles using the Beatles' old Abbey Road mixing desk.
The Follow Up to the Band’s Critically Acclaimed Debut ‘youth and Young
Manhood’, ‘a-ha Shake Heartbreak’ . The Band Recorded the Album with
Producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Counting Crows) Over Five Weeks in
Studio City, California During the Summer of 2004.
The mysterious Followill family returns to the front porch/garage on the
Kings of Leon's engaging sophomore effort, Aha Shake Heartbreak. On
Youth & Young Manhood, the Kings gave Southern rock a swift kick in
the rear, sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd posing as a bunch of N.Y.U. film
students (or vice versa). For their latest, the Nashville quartet raises
a flag that's equal parts Confederate and Union Jack. Their success in
the U.K. is understandable, as Caleb Followill's lazy drawl sounds like a
cross between Bon Scott, Ray Davies, and Eddie Money with a slight
Jamaican accent, but it's their seamless and agreeable blend of rock
& roll, country, and Roky Erickson-style psychedelia, matched with a
keen lyrical wit, that makes them fascinating to both sides of the
pond. On the twenty-something barfly opener "Slow Night, So Long," Caleb
laments/celebrates the soulless dance of the one-night stand ("She's
opened up just like she really knows me/I hate her face, but enjoy the
company") like a true student of outlaw country. It's a theme that runs
rampant throughout Heartbreak, and whether it's set against a swamp-sick
boogie ("Pistol of Fire") or emitted through a lonesome yodel ("Day Old
Blues"), it resonates as clear and cool as the opening notes of a
Creedence Clearwater Revival tune.
James Christopher Monger - All Music Guide
The Followill brothers grew up in Tennessee with a Pentecostal preacher
for a daddy. But Lord knows even down-home boys fall prey to the sinful
temptations of the rock & roll life, and every last one of those
temptations gets chronicled in lip-smacking detail on Aha Shake
Heartbreak. The Kings' second album is a hilariously raunchy
Southern-rock travelogue about all the girls they met on tour for their
first album. Songs like "Slow Night, So Long" and "Taper Jean Girl" are
populated by gold-digging mothers and groupies with motel faces; the
grooves are as sweaty as a long shag, and the hard-edged guitars aim
below the Mason-Dixon Line.
100 Best Albums of the 2000s
Kings of Leon's schtick is that they have no schtick: They're just four
stand-up guys who happen to be in a rock band. They're from a small town
in eastern Tennessee; three of them are brothers and the fourth is a
cousin; the brothers are minister's kids; all four were home-schooled.
All of which marks them as outsiders-- people untouched by industry
politics or expectations who are just playing rock'n'roll 'cause they're
livin' it, man! But Kings of Leon's insistence on their own honest
naturalism-- from their time-capsule haircuts to Caleb Followill's
overexpressive vocals to their terrible album titles-- seems
disingenuous, especially in a genre (Southern rock) that prizes realness
and grumbles at pretensions. The Followill clan wouldn't last a week in
The Drive-By Truckers' Dirty South.
Aha Shake Heartbreak, the follow-up to last year's bewilderingly
well-received Youth and Young Manhood, is an update on the previous
album's Southern bar-band rock, with just enough Nuggets-style pop chops
to impress hipsters and critics. If the hooks aren't as good this time,
the songs are more sculpted and succinct, with a greater sense of
urgency and economy. On the other hand, these dozen tracks don't really
mean anything. Sure, they're about stuff like women and being in a band,
but they sound deeply impersonal, and often obligatory in their lazy
misogyny ("Cunts watch their bodies, no room for make up") and lazier
obtuseness ("He's so the purity, the shaven and the mourning"-- even
Beck is more coherent). Caleb sings about a girl with an "hourglass
body" who "has problems with drinking milk and being school tardy/
She'll loan you her toothbrush/ She'll bartend your party," but it
doesn't sound like he actually knows anyone like that. Instead, the
song's about a rock'n'roll archetype-- the wild heartbreaker, the
man-eater, the endearing groupie-- and it never manages to transcend the
Elsewhere, the lyrics are so self-referential they're almost
narcissistic. Songs like "Slow Night, So Long" and "Four Kicks" are
about what hard-livin' good ol' boys the Followills are. In particular,
"Soft" is stupid sex wordplay that would be insulting if it weren't so
self-deprecating: "I'm passed out in your garden...I'd pop myself in
your body/ I'd come into your party but I'm soft." One word: eww.
Another favorite topic is the harsh realities of endless touring and
low-level fame, as if having a major-label promote you and Dave Eggers
worship you in print are such hardships. But on "Day Old Blues" Caleb
observes that "Girls are gonna love the way I toss my hair/ Boy are
going to hate the way I seem." This boy in particular thinks that's the
key to what makes this band such a bunch of fakes: They're more
interested in appearances than in their music. Those haircuts don't
appear anywhere in nature.
On the other hand, maybe it's just the way Caleb sings that and every
other line on Aha Shake Heartbreak. He is a terrible singer, like a
drunken Randy Newman with Tourette's-- which would be a compliment if it
didn't make you expect more intelligent lyrics. On just about every
song here he lets loose a flurry of words in some bizarre approximation
of backwater sass, but it just sounds willful and grating. On "Day Old
Blues", he turns some lyrics into almost scat-like utterances while
painfully overenunciating others. He's shooting for some sort of
Southern-slash-Appalachian accent, but ultimately he defies geography
and just sounds unnatural.
The album's one redeeming element is the band itself, who-- over the
course of one EP and two albums-- have improved tenfold. They're
tighter, more dynamic, and much more confident on Aha Shake Heartbreak
than they were on Youth and Young Manhood. Granted, they still sound
like they're descended from The Strokes and other garage bands rather
than from southern royalty like Lynyrd Skynyrd or even Southern pop like
The Gants or The Scruffs. Their boogie may have crawled out of
Williamsburg instead of some backwater swamp, but Nathan, Jared, and
Matthew Followill manage to incorporate vintage elements into their
music without sounding overly nostalgic (which is the pitfall of
soundalikes Thee Shams). "Slow Night, So Long" finds a twist ending in a
slow coda, and songs like "The Bucket" and "Razz" pop and bounce
elastically. With its hand-claps and staccato guitars, "Taper Jean Girl"
struts such undeniable bad-ass energy that you may find yourself
singing along, although you'll want to make up your own words.
Stephen M. Deusner - November 30, 2004
© 2015 Pitchfork Media Inc.
There can’t have been another band in history who arrived with a
backstory and image more acutely designed to make certain music fans
(ie: journalists) cry with pleasure than the Kings Of Leon. Here was a
band raised by a man with a Bible in one hand and a bottle in the other;
a band who apparently spent many of their formative years living in a
car; a band who were even more than the last gang in town that every
band wants to be – a band of actual brothers and cousins.
Here was a band who appeared to be everything we wanted them to be, all
at once. They were the Partridge Family ruined by malnutrition and
alcoholism, a modern-day Ingalls family from Little House On The Prairie
picking out riffs on home-made fiddles in the barn that Daddy built, a
prowling group of Waltons boys let loose on the world after their balls
all dropped over one terrifying weekend. Here was a band that arrived
dressed in exactly the same thrift-store T-shirts that every blank-eyed
cretin on Hollyoaks and every grinning homunculous presenting tots’ TV
wore, only the Kings looked like they might have actually bought theirs
in an real thrift store for a couple of dollars, rather than buying it
ready-distressed from Selfridges for £54.99.
But, perhaps most confusingly, here was a band who arrived, perfect and
fully formed, still reeking of a part of America that remains largely an
intangible mystery even in the 21st century, a band who arrived just as
Cameron Crowe’s rock-hack classic Almost Famous made long-forgotten
’70s Southern rock giants like The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd
bizarrely fashionable. Then, suddenly, there was this lot. They had
beards and long hair. They had funny accents and olde-worlde manners.
They appeared never to have heard of hip-hop, Sunny D or mobile phones.
They couldn’t have been better if they’d been pieced together in a
laboratory. So the Kings looked at the hacks and the hacks looked at the
Kings and it was love at first sight. We weren’t watching Almost Famous
any more, we were in it.
Unfortunately, in the Kings’ case, love wasn’t so much blind, as deaf.
‘Youth & Young Manhood’ was no more in debt to Lynyrd Skynyrd, The
Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival or any other shit-kicking
stadium rock act dressed to impress in weathered denim and flowing
facial hair than, say, Dizzee Rascal. The difficult truth of the matter
is that they were a hundred times more complex and interesting than
that. And now, to confuse things further, ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’ leaves
any remnants of that Southern schtick for dust.
Let’s take ‘Razz’, for example. It starts with a bassline that sounds as
if Jared pulled it directly from an old Motown record – fairly
shambolically, it must be said – before deciding that some junk-shop
disco drums and a hefty portion of raggedy-arsed ska guitar parts would
top it off nicely. Play this to Lynyrd Skynyrd fans and you’d get
lynched – literally, Alabama’s not that sweet you know.
Then there’s ‘Milk’ – a work of real beauty that grows from thin threads
of ambient synth, through Caleb’s spare acoustic guitar part and
gurgling growl of a voice to tell the tale of a girl – a young girl, too
– who’s got an “hourglass body” who’s quite accommodating, like many of
the women who appear on this record. I’m thinking of the lady in ‘Soft’
who happily reveals her “perfect nipples” here. She’ll do everything
from “loan you her toothbrush”, to “bartend your party”. Would you be
surprised if I said it develops into a soft-rock hum of melodic joy
before disintegrating back into the synth? I was.
‘Day Old Blues’ – a brilliantly cynical, heartbroken rant explaining how
being in a rock group is rubbish (“Girls are going to love the way I
toss my head/Boys are going to hate the way I seem”) – dispenses with
almost everything but the back-porch guitar it ambles in on. ‘Slow
Nights, So Long’, the hip-dipping, psyched-out, Who-flavoured opening
track, breaks down into a calypso-flavoured tropicalian jazz coda – no,
really – where Caleb gets to croon, “Rise and shine all you gold-diggin’
muthas/Are you too good to tangle with the poor, poor boys?” I don’t
recall The Allman Brothers being quite this adventurous. Come to think
of it, I don’t remember many stadium-levelling boogie monsters doing
anything as gloriously metronomic, as rigidly motorik as ‘King Of The
Listen to the way Matthew and Caleb’s guitars swing on totally different
tangents yet complement each other every time they pass. This is music
that has its eyes and heart set on a wider world than that offered by a
fast-shrinking globe’s soulless enormodomes. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be
difficult to imagine some terrible old substance abusers – perhaps The
Eagles, or Crosby, Stills & Nash – coming up with a track called
‘Velvet Snow’ because, frankly, if it’s not about aggravatingly repeated
cocaine use then it certainly ought to be. But it’s unlikely that any
collection of Californian super soft-rocking longhairs you care to
mention would have managed to keep up with the track’s frenetic,
over-wired pace and head-spinning, stream-of-unconsciousness lyrics.
Clearly, somehow, somewhere on the never-ending tour that followed the
release of ‘Youth & Young Manhood’ the Kings lost several key parts
of their minds, in particular the ones that make bands release the same
old shit, drawn from the same drained, dry old well, year in year out.
Happily, it would seem from the evidence presented here that the freshly
shorn Kings are intent on rebuilding themselves from scratch, drawing
on whatever wild and wonderful influences they’ve tripped over in their
race to live five lifetimes in every day. How else could you explain the
fact they’ve found room to shoehorn in a truly odd waltz-time number
that weirds out enough to spin the album to a close on some insane sort
of floaty, early-’60s Polish jazz? Again – and please correct me if I’m
wrong here – not a big player with the Bud’n’Ludes crews of America, be
they the mid-’70s edition or the super-brand-hugging consumers of today.
I never really got the Kings Of Leon before. I could never get past
Caleb’s howl of a voice, or Nathan’s beard. I walked past them in a
hotel lobby once. They were dressed in floppy hats, painfully tight
stripy tops and middle-aged ladies’ sunglasses and it all just seemed so
contrived, so deliberate, that it actually took my breath away.
Consequently, lots and lots of people assured me that this record would
take quite a few listens to really enjoy, that I wouldn’t get it unless I
lived with it for a while, that it was a bit difficult. Well, that’s
bollocks. I fell in love with it immediately, as you will if you let
yourself get past what you think the band are all about and actually
listen to what they’re doing, what they’re saying and how they’re saying
Do yourself a favour – don’t believe another word of what you read about the Kings Of Leon. Apart from these ones, naturally.
Rob Fitzpatrick - September 12, 2005
© 1996-2015 Time Inc. (UK) Ltd.
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