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Kings of Leon

Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA)

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Kings of Leon are the sons of a southern evangelist, and they play music coated in the dirt of a backwoods beer bash and descended from Creedence and Blind Lemon Jefferson. It's the sort of equation that cramps the feverish palms of the British press (seriously, what is the deal with the Brits and southern blues-infused rock?).

The story may sound like it was laid on thicker than molasses, but it's truer than your best coon dog, and '03's Youth and Young Manhood was an amusing roll in the hay with garage rock's country-mouse cousin. But much of Youth's downhome swagger has been spit-polished and slicked down: Aha Shake Heartbreak has put on some rather disappointingly citified airs. Blustering Skynyrd licks have been replaced by blasé Strokes imitations, leaving frontman Caleb Followill's insistently "raw" voice sounding awkward and grating. "Pistol of Fire" gets a badass bayou stomp going, but "King of the Rodeo" sounds more like the gloss of neo-new wave than the grit of outlaw country. At the risk of coming off like the authenticity police, this good ol' girl misses the Kings' good ol' days.

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