Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Record label: Mom & Pop Music
Can an industrial-strength guitar-noise duo blow up into the most pelican-fly rock band around? Of course it can, if it's Sleigh Bells. Guitarist Derek Miller and vocalist Alexis Krauss are the kind of music geeks who had their formative-crush experiences soundtracked to My Bloody Valentine and Slayer records. Sleigh Bells scored with their 2010 debut, Treats, but Reign of Terror is even noisier, funnier and smuttier.
Great albums often have great opening moments (“Welcome to the Jungle,” “Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” et al.) and the first minute of Reign ranks up there with the best of ’em. Escorting “True Shred Guitar” is what sounds like a festival crowd circa 1979, cheers and claps chorus as the band takes the imaginary stage; solitary drum hits as expansive and anything Def Leppard ever laid down give way to monstrous metal guitars by Derek Miller and by the time Alexis Krauss comes in, we’re on our feet. Krauss has evolved measurably and the album boasts excellent vocal turns by the still-maturing singer.
The idea behind Sleigh Bells has always been simple arithmetic. It’s nothing too complicated, nothing too eclectic, and it has a strong focus on hooks and loops to get the people going. There are little formulae all over their debut album Treats: 808s + palm-muting, school-locker lyrics + Funkadelic sample, Diplovian beat + “Misirlou” guitar riff, all created by Alexis Krauss + Derek Miller.
Sleigh Bells arrived fully formed with blunt rock riffs, crunk beats, and airy, feminine vocals. Their debut, Treats, may be the first record to fetishize the negative consequences of the Loudness War, with guitarist and producer Derek E. Miller pushing an already bombastic sound to absurd extremes by deliberately narrowing the music's dynamic range to the point of clipping even at moderate volumes.
If the title doesn't tip you off, there's always the denim-heavy promo shots. And in case you still aren't sure, then fuck-off opener 'True Shred Guitar' should just about ram it home. Sleigh Bells have gone all bar-room metal. A timeworn trick-of-the-hipster-trade, guitarist Derek Miller and Annie-cribbing cooer Alexis Krauss are pulling the old 'dumb is the new ironic' routine, deployed by scores of urbanite know-it-alls from John Spencer Blues Explosion on down through Eagles Of Death Metal.
First came the guitar, shooting licks like laser bolts from the fingers of its wielder, Derek Miller. Then there came the voice. Sometimes it came hiding nunchucks in its pigtails. Other times, it blew strawberry-scented kisses that cut like razorblades. This was Alexis Krauss, and like a computer ….
Review Summary: A hell of a drugSleigh Bells' debut album Treats was a shot fired across the bow of the indie-verse all the way from left field. At a time when even the noisiest of faux-art rawk innovators, such as Tune-Yards, still tried to walk the line between dreamy sonicscapes and bullshit for the sake of bullshit, the duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss wowed with an attack straight to the throat. Treats was unabashedly dirty, obnoxiously fucking loud, and noisy instead of “noisy”.
It was only 18 months ago that Sleigh Bells’ Treats fell like a bunker buster on an indie scene that had spent most of the previous year plastered on chillwave vibes, and in that time, the edges on its scrapyard pop singles haven’t dulled in the least. And why should they? With the exception of Tune-Yards’s riotous w h o k i l l, there hasn’t been a pop album, mainstream, indie, or in between, that’s asserted itself with such confidence and physicality. In a world where the fortune pumped into promoting dance-rock hybridists like Lady Gaga, Skrillex, and LMFAO could even occasionally produce a party-rock anthem as gloriously edgy as “Kids” or “Crown on the Ground,” pop radio would be a much more exciting place.
“If Sleigh Bells are brave enough to say, ‘Fuck everybody, our new record is influenced by Def Leppard,’ then they’re my kind of people. ”—Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, in the opening paragraph of the cover story on Sleigh Bells in the new issue of Spin. Of all the things you could have reasonably expected Reign of Terror, the great sophomore Sleigh Bells album, to be—a rehash of of the band’s still great 2010 debut Treats chief among them—how many could have predicted this? An album that jocks the iconically painted guitar of Eddie Van Halen without irony? An album that bows at the temple of Hysteria? A Warrant album with bombing backbeats? How will the average denizen of Portlandia respond to this shit? Because make no bones about it: Sleigh Bells are riding hair metal here, and they’re not doing it in the “wasn’t this music goofy?” way that that Ratt T-shirt you bought at Target does.
In 2010, the hype machine’s needle pointed into the red for this Brooklyn duo, whose excellent thrash-pop debut, Treats, was touted by Spike Jonze, M.I.A., and every pink-haired cheerleader who heard it on Gossip Girl. Reign of Terror, their follow-up, features all the cheap boom-box beats and Guitar Hero riffs that made their debut such a head rush — check the foot-stomping ”Crush.” But it’s Alexis Krauss’ woozy vocals that are truly sublime; she sounds like a real teen dream: ethereally beautiful and totally bored. B+ Best Tracks:Hesher-friendly CrushPop-metal Comeback Kid .
Sleigh BellsReign of Terror[Mom + Pop; 2012]By Cole Zercoe; February 22, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIn his review of Sleigh Bells' debut album, Treats, Pitchfork's Mark Richardson wrote; “They felt like rides at an amusement park, and I'd get a feeling in my stomach when the first notes kicked in: Here we go. ” When he wrote those opening lines he had uncovered the very core of what made Treats and other albums like it such grand accomplishments. Whether it’s Broken or Psychocandy or any of the countless other examples of records that exist primarily to create chaos, the core reason behind their appeal is their ability to hit their listeners in a way they’ve never been hit before.
"Push it push it push it!" Alexis Krauss shouts at the beginning of Reign of Terror, and that's exactly what she and Derek Miller do on their follow-up to Treats. Despite its in-the-red volume, Sleigh Bells' debut was a fragile, almost alchemical blend of wispy melodies and crushingly heavy beats and riffs. How could they top an album that was already turned up to 11? By turning things up to 12: on Reign of Terror, the duo brings the nods to metal that added a headbanging thrust to Treats to center stage.
Last weekend Sleigh Bells became one of the most unlikely Saturday Night Live guests, ripping it up with a wall of Marshall stacks in front of millions of Americans. From their lo-fi origins they’re emerging into the pop culture perhaps more because of their projected identities than their music: Alexis Krauss is a sort of parallel-universe tattooed bubblegum pop singer, and Derek Miller the leather jacket and shades-clad post-ironic hipster; the contradictions were even more obvious in this live TV setting (which hilariously omitted all the bass tones, the main subconscious drive of Sleigh Bells’ music). A quick Twitter search illustrates the repulsion of 80% of SNL viewers.
“Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid” were the first songs leaked from Sleigh Bells’ second album Reign of Terror, but could there be two more misleading titles to describe a band that has experienced nothing short of a stratospheric ascent in terms of acclaim and fame? Instead, Sleigh Bells’ career trajectory begs the obvious question of whether they can continue to top themselves in pushing their brash, trashy artistry forward. Besting their debut Treats would be a tall task, considering how Sleigh Bells’ initial effort was so complete and fully fledged that you’d be hard pressed to think that they had any more room to grow. To put it another way, Treats was such an over-the-top experience that it seems impossible for Sleigh Bells’ aesthetic to become any more intense and bold than it was the first time around.
The shrieking, granular distortion that earmarked Sleigh Bells’ 2010 debut Treats was a novelty of such alarm that even those of us who hailed it as a relief that new noises could still be squeezed from two-dimensional guitar did not think it could be followed up. It had that perfect blend of intention and accident, both out of nowhere and sorely needed, and not much of a grip on what it actually was supposed to be doing. All the bluntest aspects of grindcore, crunk rap and chirpy bubblegum audibly fought for space, and still with time for a Funkadelic sample break on the most-celebrated, uncharacteristic “Rill Rill.
SLEIGH BELLS play the Phoenix March 26, and open for Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Air Canada Centre April 27 and 28. Rating: NNN Sleigh Bells concentrate more on songwriting for their follow-up to their wildly successful noise pop debut, Treats, and set aside the abrasive yet strangely pleasurable digital distortion and over-compression that were their trademark. However, Reign Of Terror is less of a departure than the band thinks.
Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells caused a joyful ruckus in 2010 with Treats, a startling debut that crashed Derek Miller's monster riffs into Alexis Krauss's girly cooing. Having lost the shock of the new, this more tuneful follow-up privileges Krauss's pop instincts over Miller's mayhem. They've managed the difficult trick of evolving a gonzoid sound, as the sultry, Pixies-ish ''Road To Hell" attests.
Reign of Terror introduces itself to us with the dull roar of a canned audience. “There we go,” Alexis Krauss snarls in approval, “There we fucking go.” Her partner in crime, Derek Miller, can be heard in the background grinding out a scorching solo while Krauss leads the imaginary concert-goers in a clap-along. Things get serious about a minute in, when the drums and guitar fall into sync for an amp’d-up Sabbath riff while Krauss intones “Push it/ Push it/ Push it/ True shred guitar.” It’s an innocuous enough opening gambit, and in a certain light, even a charming one, but I honestly feel like everything that’s wrong with Sleigh Bells’ sophomore set can be first glimpsed right here.
There's a single, inescapable problem with Sleigh Bells, the Brooklyn duo sponsored by M.I.A. who became the toast of hipsters everywhere with their 2010 debut, Treats. Namely: when you build your sound around the adrenalising effects of pure noise, it only truly works when played at gig volumes. At anything less, it tends towards a distorted mess.
On the list of things nobody said about the first Sleigh Bells album: "Yeah, but it could be louder"; "Singer Alexis Krauss could be a little more confident"; "There's something missing here." My point is that the 2010 music world believed Sleigh Bells had very little room to improve, and at the time, we all seemed right. Then the Brooklyn, NY duo went and recorded Reign of Terror. The sophomore full-length is louder despite its phenomenal production values ? guitarist Derek Miller has expanded his guitar repertoire to include arpeggios and solos amongst his stomping riffs ? and is characterized by maturity and growth.
In my full-time job as a middle school band director, I’m often afforded the singular opportunity to bridge the gap between my own listening preferences and those of my students. When we’re not preparing works by the luminaries of grade school wind band music (John O’Reilly, James Swearingen, Robert W. Smith, etc.), any number of other artists’ songs can be heard wafting down the halls near the band room.
The Brooklyn duo mix loud and quiet elements in a most compelling fashion. Chris Beanland 2012 There are some interesting contradictions at play on Sleigh Bells' second album. For example, when Alexis Krauss purrs her way through Road to Hell, the pointed language she uses is disconnected from the delicate way in which she delivers it. The manner in which Krauss' vocal chords remain calm in a crisis is a key characteristic of Sleigh Bells' canon.
The biggest thing Sleigh Bells ever had going for them was the element of surprise. When most people listened to the New York City duo’s 2010 debut, Treats, for the first time, they were assaulted with blown-out hip-hop beats courtesy of a drum machine, Anthrax-heavy riffs from guitarist Derek Miller and vocals from Alexis Krauss that fluctuated from a staccato cadence to a sing-songy soprano. Whether you loved it or hated it, you had to at least acknowledge it as something new, fresh and exciting.
What made Sleigh Bells' impressive 2010 debut Treats such a – ahem - treat, wasn't so much the conflict at the heart of the music – that'll be the full-on sonic onslaught tempered with breathy, almost child-like vocals, the juxtaposition of diverse musical backgrounds that shouldn't but do work and the ability to rise and fall at will – but it's resolution. After all, there's no point in butting heads unless it leads to something altogether unexpected unless the objective of the exercise is to create an aural car crash only fit for the most ghoulish of voyeurs. Yet what we have here with Reign Of Terror isn't reconciliation between style and substance but an outright victory for the former.