Kings Of Leon Aha Shake Heartbreak

[RCA; 2005]

Rating: 0.5/5

What goes up must come down; and so, for retro rock, the curse of the sophomore album has bit and bit hard. The Vines, The Strokes, and The Hives have all released mediocre follow-ups to solid breakout albums and public interest is beginning to wane in lieu of poppier music. So the Followill brothers and cousin, if you believe that whole family thing to be true or not, better known as Kings Of Leon, didn't have much in their favor to match the commercial success of their superfluously titled Youth & Young Manhood, especially not with that debut being almost entirely image based and their lead singer, Caleb, being blessed with the most angelic voice since Bon Scott took up drinking. With the release of Aha Shake Heartbreak -- a title which somehow manages to capture so well the nonsensical yet derivative and stale pop music performed therein -- the contest to see who can sound exactly like The Strokes' inbred southern in-laws has hit an unimaginable high (a possible title for the album being, so I'm told, Is The ROOM ON FIRE Or Is My Cousin Just Hot?). Matthew pinches the high end, rambling guitar of Albert Hammond Jr. and sprinkles it all over the album but giving it absolutely no unique signature whatsoever at any point. Much like how The Strokes opened up and showed more range and influence on their follow-up, Aha is much more varied musically than their monotonous debut stealing The Cars' "Let The Good Times Roll" for the chorus of "King Of The Rodeo," borrowing a Detroit Cobras surf rock bassline for "4 Kids," dabbling in Rapture-style dance-punk for "Razz," and so on. While this is drastically experimental by their standards, there is nothing here you haven't heard done infinitely better many times before.

However, no matter how good they're being paid, nothing but the addition of Robin Trower, Keith Moon, and Paul McCartney all in their mid-twenties could overcome the horrific nasally squonk of Caleb Followill. He wants to be Bob Dylan so badly, the poetry, protest, passion, and pussy... well, the pussy anyway, but at the very best, he's a poor man's Yoko Ono lyrically and especially vocally. Skip to the third minute of "Trani" from their debut to hear the most piercing squeals ever emitted by a testicled male and the laugh out loud hilarious "Day Old Blue," which he manages to sing "day-o day-o day-o (x3) bl-woo-hoo" for all the proof you'll need to believe their family has taken lines like "go love your sister" ["Pistol Of Fire"...pistol meaning penis] a little too literally for many generations. Although he tries to be as incoherent as possible at all times, Caleb can't hide lyrics like "let your perfect nipple show," which reek of a band likely to say "we try to be as real as we possibly can, because you can only put on a charade for so long before you start acting a double-charade. Then you start getting busted" (Nathan Followill). If you are real, you don't have to try to be. You are just real. Bitching about there being less women backstage now than after the first album came out -- three of four Followills braggingly losing their virginity after Youth & Young Manhood -- is a good indication they were only in it for the objects from the start and is not in my definition of what constitutes real, genuine human beings. That description tends to fall under pussy-driven hacks. Do yourself a huge favour and ignore the hype because that's all it is. Pretend this doesn't exist; your children will thank you.

1. Slow Nights, So Long
2. King Of The Rodeo
3. Taper Jean Girl
4. Pistol Of Fire
5. Milk
6. Bucket
7. Soft
8. Razz
9. Day Old Blues
10. 4 Kicks
11. Velvet Snow
12. Re-Memo

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