Tag Archives: Aha Shake Heartbreak

Songs of Summers Past: Part 2

(Carrie became so inspired by my list last week, that she wrote up a list of her own.  Check it out.)

(Me, circa 2006.)

The Clash – “Rudie Can’t Fail” (Summer 2003)

For me, “Rudie Can’t Fail” is the highlight of London Calling an album on which every single song would be a highlight on somebody else’s album.   London Calling was one the CDs that I brought with me on for a summer semester in Italy.  I had been to Europe before, but these trips were either with family or organized.  Living in a small town in Northern Italy for 6 weeks meant plenty of down-time to explore the subtleties of Italian culture I would not have otherwise been exposed to.  Each Wednesday morning the town opened its streets to a market.  The linens, Catholic relics, Italian leather were a link to the old world.  With my headphones on, I used to wander around the streets for hours trying to soak up as much as I could.  With its reggae and third world feel, “Rudie Can’t Fail” was the soundtrack to my self imposed Italian education.  The lyricsm “I went to the market, to realize my soul cuz what I need I just don’t have,” never seemed so prophetic and exciting.

“King of the Rodeo” – Kings of Leon (Summer 2005)

For everybody who thinks of Kings of Leon based on “Use Somebody”, I urge them to listen to this song.  It’s an entirely different band.  Matthew Followill delivers one of his sexiest and dirtiest guitar riffs, while Caleb’s vocals are incomprehensible and boozy, yet strangely melodic.  The only lyrics that can be deciphered are “let the good times roll, let the good times roll”.   I became obsessed with Kings of Leon’s Aha Shake Heartbreak earlier that year, due to their opening slot of U2’s tour.  While U2’s show was perfectly rehearsed with little room for improvisation (not a bad thing, by the way), Kings of Leon came out as if their instruments were weapons in a bar fight.  There was a sense that anything could happen.  Aha Shake Heartbreak became my “go to” CD that summer, as I drove to and from my shitty job.   I probably broke the skip button as I kept placing “King of the Rodeo” on repeat.  I can’t understand the rest of the summer, but “let the good times roll” became something of a mantra.

“High Fidelity” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

I had recently discovered the genius of Elvis Costello about a year earlier, and was quickly becoming acquainted with his back catalogue, in particular Get Happy!! and “High Fidelity”.   On an album full of great songs, “High Fidelity” is a masterpiece – the piano never sounded so violent and menacing and also poppy.  A great sing-along song for the summer at full volume.  I used to always say that I never liked to drink too much a show, as I wanted to remember to it all.  Sadly, this was not the case at the Elvis Costello an Allen Toussaint show.  My friend, and my brother started tail-gating hours before the show.  To the audience at Wolf Trap, which is actually an outdoor theater sometimes used for a rock show, we were heathens.  Wolf Trap’s BYOB rules did not suit us well.  And our cans of Budweiser and bag of Lays was a direct contrast to everyone else’s wine and cheese.   At one point, I remember sitting on a pair of steps with my head between my legs desperately trying not to get sick.  As I tried to come to my senses, I did manage to hear “High Fidelity” in the background.

“Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince (Summer 2010)

A while back, I looked at my girlfriend’s Ipod and was surprised to see “Let’s Go Crazy” on it.  I never suspected her to be a Prince fan.  Even more surprisingly, she had mistakenly downloaded a remix with an extended ending.  That purchase has always made me laugh and “Let’s Go Crazy” has become a song that we listen to quite often when driving.  She even knows the opening monologue by heart, which is even more hilarious.  Last summer while in Florida with her family, I bought a copy of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll that led to a rather humorous (and sometimes tense) discussion with her father over which songs should and shouldn’t be included. It turned out to be a great bonding experience even if we disagreed on quite a few songs. He argued there were way too many Prince songs on the list (including “Let’s Go Crazy”) while I suggested that “Born to Be Wild” really isn’t that good, and was only included for nostalgic reasons.

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Kings of Leon: “Come Around Sundown” is the final nail in their coffin for me

Kings of Leon are now streaming their new album Come Around Sundown on their web-site.  It doesn’t come out until next week, October the 19th, but I’m just glad I got the chance to stream it.  It’s not bad, but it’s incredibly mediocre, which I find more offensive.  At least if the album was really terrible, I could laugh at it like I do with anything that Nickelback , Live, Daughtry or Creed puts out.

Kings of Leon used to be my one of my favorite “new” bands.  I’ve seen them about 5 or 6 times at various different places.  In 2004, they were a completely different band.  Their fabled beginning of being preacher’s sons hadn’t worn out its welcome.  You knew that these guys were probably got shit-faced every single night, and had a slew of girls waiting for them at the end of the show.  And they looked like they just crawled out of the hotel room – unshaven and unkempt – ready to unleash their Stooges meets The Band hybrid of garage-rock.

Their second album Aha Shake Heartbreak was a water-shed moment for rock in the 2000s.  It was different than everything else that was out there – everything about it was dirty.   The flower on the cover looked like a vagina, Caleb Followill spat out lyrics about passing out in front of models at a party due to whiskey-dick.  And the music was pretty with such intensity and fury, that you could practically smell the beer-sweat on the guitar strings.  Even the  slower songs even left a burning impression.

2007’s Because of the Times found them discovering new sounds and textures, but many of the songs still contained the furious pace of their first two albums.  When I first heard “Sex on Fire” I thought it was a pretty good single, but it didn’t prepare for how shitty Only By the Night would be.  It seems that Kings of Leon think that by adding open space and letting a song breathe equates to a fantastic song.

Come Around Sundown continues this trend.  Every song is mellow and laid-back.  But it lacks originality and emotion.  All of the songs seem to run into one another.  Guitarist Matthew Followill seems to think that The Edge is the only guitar player worth listening to.  (And while I love U2 and The Edge, that particular sound becomes trite and boring when imitated.)

I’m all for bands growing and changing.  But it doesn’t mean you have to mellow your sound and become like everybody else.  I never thought that one day I might confuse a Kings of Leon song with one by Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Keane.

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Song of the Day: “The Bucket” – Kings of Leon

If you’re only used to hearing Kings of Leon through “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” Caleb Followill’s voice thoughout Aha Shake Heartbreak must come as a shock.  The sweet, tender, soulful voice is nowhere to be found.  Instead he sounds like a drunken Murmur-era Michael Stipe whose southern accent is even more pronounced.  The lyrics are purposely slurred, and inaudible.

“The Bucket” is the highlight of an album full of stand-out tracks.  It begins with Matthew Followill’s guitar riff that lies somewhere between lazy and commanding.  The hangover has ended, and the party is just beginning.  Someone shouts “wooo!” and the song turns into a shuffle once Nathan Followill rolls his drums in.

Before Kings of Leon got big I used to describe them to people as “the stooges drinking whiskey” or the “Allman Brothers on heroin”.   “The Bucket” isn’t country-punk, but it’s certainly country influenced and played by a garage-rock band.  Interestingly, “The Bucket” has fast verses, and slow choruses – the exact opposite of most Nirvana songs.

The song is apparently written by Caleb Followill to his younger brother Jared (KOL’s bass player) who was just 17 at the time of the recording to help him deal with the band’s newfound fame (they were huge in Britain for years before hitting in the US.)  “You kick the bucket, and I’ll swing my legs” seems to imply a brotherly relationship – we’re in this together.  By the end of the song, Caleb’s “gonna show the way,” and you know that he means it.

Like much of Aha Shake Heartbreak I became obsessed with “The Bucket” because even 5 years later, it sounds like nothing else.

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Dear Kings of Leon…

Dear Kings of Leon,

I’ve been a huge fan of yours for a long time.  I’m not mad at you for making Only By the Night. It’s a bit polished for my tastes, and had some decent songs and two absolute masterpieces (“Closer” and “Cold Desert”).  “Sex on Fire” wasn’t bad, but you’ve an entire album (Aha Shake Heartbreak) on the same subject, but it sounded original and different.  You’re not pop-stars – you’re among the best rock and roll bands out in the scene right now, so with your next album prove to everybody that you’re in it for the long-haul.  Take a cue from one of your own songs below:

Sincerely,

Matt

(I’ll love you forever, I swear.)

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Kings of Leon – Trani

I still like Kings of Leon, but Only By the Night was kind of a disappointment – Mellower songs, and too many Edge-like guitar effects compared to their Allman’s meet Stooges thump on their first two albums Youth and Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbreak.

Until it came on my Ipod  the other day, I forgot about the song “Trani” (which according to drummer Nathan Followill even had Bob Dylan floored when they opened for him a few years back.)  Listening to this song, it’s hard to believe that these guys would actually top the charts and make Itunes best-selling album of 2009.

Trani:

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