Kings of Leon

Record review

Phases & Stages

Kings of Leon

Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA)

Granted, the first recoil from Aha Shake Heartbreak might not leave the bruise debut LP Youth & Young Manhood left in 2003. There's a blur of Seventies spit and grit – peak Stones, chiefly – but is there Manhood's "Molly's Chambers"? The answer, friend, is damn straight. The longer you play it, the more ragged it becomes. Opener "Slow Night, So Long" pile-drives like the Who, "Pinball Wizard" intro answered by an Ox-like bassline, then up slams the Memphis four ("pipes, skins, slaps, licks" read the credits). Of course Caleb Followill is no Roger Daltrey, more like a rabid, Tennessee Williams version of Muppet Grover. Thank God for printed lyrics, which, in the case of Aha Shake Heartbreak, are classic Keith Richards: run lurid bons mots together and it sounds wicked ("Aha shake taper jean girl with a motel face"). With a decidedly male POV ("Cunts watch their bodies, no room for make-up"); Followill will piss away just as many potential followers with his feral craw ("Boys are gonna hate the way I seem"). (Sing.) That, of course, is also the wildboy attraction of Kings of Leon: Southern longhairs floorboarding rock & roll like they was The Outlaws Josey Wales. That don't need selling, mister, it's a flag. "King of the Rodeo" kicks like its title, while "Taper Jean Girl" slow burns until a sharp release. "Pistol of Fire" goes off, too, so it's a relief when the bull stops breaking backs on the coiled "Milk." "The Bucket" has no hole in it, and even the Strokes-y "Soft," a discard by most standards, hardens intermittently. "Four Kicks" Molly Hatchet. A dozen barkers in 35 manic young-man minutes and only a few hangers-on ("Razz," "Day Old Blues," "Velvet Snow"). Tolling closer "Rememo" wafts up like the drunk tank the morning after ("Dripping beards as cold as hell, and the motherfucker's gonna go to jail"), fading out in a fairy tale twinkling. Unlike the Strokes, and say, Interpol, no sophomore face-plant here. In this disposable age? Brother, that is a fairy tale. (Kings of Leon level La Zona Rosa March 12.)

***.5

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