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Kings of Leon keeps rock shaking

Becca Saunders | Thursday, March 3, 2005

Many American rock fans have at least heard of Kings of Leon, but the band’s popularity in the States is miniscule compared to the success the band has experienced in Great Britain, where its first album, “Youth and Young Manhood,” has almost reached double platinum. While Kings of Leon experienced a great deal of critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, something about these homegrown rural American boys did not pick up in their homeland. All this may be about to change. “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” the second major release for Kings of Leon, is a darker follow-up to 2003’s “Youth and Young Manhood.” The Kings of Leon Web site explains the difference between the two albums, saying, “If ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ was the party, ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’ is the hangover.” Although the album is definitely one of a much darker mood and tone, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” has a great many strengths of its own. The story of the Kings of Leon is not in any sense a traditional tale of rock star formation. Three of the members of the band, singer-guitarist Caleb Followill, bass guitarist Jared Followill and drummer Nathan Followill are brothers. And the fourth member is hardly excluded from the family, as the Followill brothers’ first cousin – Matthew Followill – plays guitar.The three brothers grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family, led by their father who was a traveling evangelist. The boys spent a great deal of time on the road with their father going from city to city throughout the southern U.S. to spread the good news. The subject matter of the majority of “Aha Shake Heartbreak” hardly reflects this upbringing. For the most part, the album covers the wild life that the members of the band have experienced in their rise to fame in the past year and a half. Many of the songs are strong enough for the album to gain a parental caution sticker and the lyrics seem to tell the true life of future rock and roll icons.Nathan Followill explains this subject change and their personal relation to the lyrics of “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” saying, “On our first album, I’d say about 30 percent of what we were writing about was autobiographical and 70 percent was wishful thinking. We were writing about things we hadn’t seen yet. On this album, 90 percent of what we’re writing about are things we’ve experienced, nights we’ve had. There’s still that other 10 percent though …”The “Aha Shake Heartbreak” experience does not end at the meaning behind the lyrics – the music also shows the growth of Kings of Leon as artists. Many different types of songs are featured throughout “Aha Shake Heartbreak.” The slower “My Generation” and “Slow Nights, So Long” are matched in quality to the more upbeat pace of “The Bucket” and “Taper Jean Girl.” Caleb Followill’s vocals are distinctive throughout the all the album’s songs, and it seems that Kings of Leon on the whole has captured its own unique sound. While “Aha Shake Heartbreak” is not as groundbreaking as “Youth and Young Manhood,” it is a little easier to listen to and relate to musically. This album sets the Kings of Leon up for a spectacular third album where the originality of “Youth and Young Manhood” can be combined with the musical maturity of “Aha Shake Heartbreak.” Overall, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” is a terrific rock album that proves the Kings of Leon deserve and probably will receive recognition on both sides of the Atlantic.