Saturday, July 3, 2010

Albums2010 #19: Aha Shake Heartbreak

This album made me believe in rock n'roll again. It was in a basement at a party in Mankato, where everyone was having one of those fantastic nights involving booze, good conversations and off-color stories and our host (whose exploits at the University of Iowa, if true, must have been a helluva lot of fun to watch/deal with) was all about the Kings of Leon. I had never heard the band, but after that night, both the Missus and I were in full agreement: we had to buy an album. So we purchased Aha Shake Heartbreak and eventually gave it to my Mom for some reason- probably her birthday.

But where can you start with the Kings of Leon? First of all: ignore 'Sex On Fire.' I know that's been all over the radio to the point of annoyance, but the true genius of Kings of Leon lies in their earlier albums. That's not to say they've lost their edge, in any respect- but their sound is currently in a state of evolution and it's become more polished and to a certain degree more commercialized in their later albums especially. Their first two albums, however, are complete gems- and Aha Shake Heartbreak is the second of those. There's a hard edge and raw driving power to this album that gets softened in their newer albums. Not in a bad way, but let's just say that the rough edges get worked off the band in their latter albums, while in their early albums the sharpness is their in all its glory.

Although I'm somewhat wary of people who attached the label 'modern classic' to everything that moves, in the case of 'Aha Shake Heartbreak' I'm going to have to make an exception. After the sour apathy of grunge and the camp excess of hair metal in the 80s and although it's sort of a semi-cousin of the indy rock revival which finally (thankfully) started knocking off bubblegum pop in the late 90s and early 00s, the Kings of Leon make a straight up rock n'roll album and it's beautiful. From the opening track, the listener is grabbed by the scruff of the neck and taken on a ride full of raw and raucous guitars, percussion and mumbly lyrics.

My favorite tracks off this album: the opener, 'Slow Night, So Long', 'Taper Jean Girl', and 'Pistol of Fire.' The latter track just kicks ass, with snarling guitars carrying the song through to its completion. Other than that, what more can you say about this band? If you've never bothered to listen to them before, do so and you'll be hooked. They, plain and simple, and with no apologies, kick ass. And if this album represents the band's ascent to new levels of greatness, I can't wait to see what they're like at the peak of their powers.

Overall: You'll believe in rock n'roll again- and both band and album just kick ass. What more do you need to know?

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