When Kings Of Leon released Youth & Young Manhood in the summer of 2003, they were a group of talented Southern kids who, through the tutelage of their rock & roll and R&B-loving Pentecostal preacher father, seemed to have the spirit of everything that was great about rock music flowing through their barely legal veins. They had never been to New York City, Chicago, or LA, much less overseas, yet they were able to capture something special - the raw energy and passion of a band well beyond their years. Where the last album was a record made by kids experiencing the whirlwind of emotions, experiences and pressure that surrounds a major label artist for the first time, their new release, Aha Shake Heartbreak, is a record created by a band that has lived it. They've spent months on the road, gone drink for drink with the Strokes, smoked a lifetime's worth of cigarettes, been praised by the press, played the monster UK festivals, blown lines of coke off the asses of hot British chicks (at least that's how I imagine it) and somehow, they have survived. The Kings Of Leon have travelled through the nine rings of hell described by Dante in the Inferno and emerged on the other side stronger, better, more in tune with who they are as a band and as individuals, tighter musically and more introspective and honest lyrically. Aha Shake Heartbreak finds frontman Caleb writing with a heart battered and bruised by the loveless escapades of life on the road and singing like a man whose vocal chords reflect a face that has become wrinkled and aged from a long life of hard living.
Songs like "Rememo" and "Pistol Of Fire" are at the same time raw and sexual, gritty and mean, hopeless and sad. Sex is a common theme on the record. "She's opened up just like she really knows me/I hate her face, but enjoy the company," Caleb sings on "Slow Night, So Long" in reference to the meaningless sexual encounter known as the one night stand. "I'm passed out in your garden/I'm in, I can't get off... soft", he laments on "Soft" about male erectile disfunction induced by drink and drugs. Like many great albums, Aha Shake Heartbreak reveals something new with each listen. If you don't give this album at least five listens before deciding on it's worth, you're screwing yourself. Personally, I've already gone through three songs which I considered to be my favorite in just a couple weeks or so of heavy rotation on my new iPod. By no means have The Kings Of Leon hit a sophomore slump. In fact, this album is head and toes above their last effort and should establish them as one of the best young bands in American rock music today.