May 13, 2010

Sleigh Bells

If you don’t know, now you know: Sleigh Bells are the latest product of blogosphere hype machinery, and at the risk of fanning the flames, I’ll echo everyone from my friend Sean (who has a nominal claim to their rise, since he booked their second gig back in October) to the New York Times in praise of the Brooklyn duo.

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Despite Sean’s best attempt to get me to see them last fall, I didn’t end up at that show (I should have known better after his last tip on the Drums), but between CMJ and SXSW, Sleigh Bells blew up: they played to a sold-out crowd at Ridgewood Masonic Temple on Tuesday to mark the release their debut album Treats. I was lucky enough to have bought my ticket before M.I.A.’s unannounced guest appearance at smaller gig last Friday, which surely spurred ticket sales over the weekend.

The Sundelles’ surf/garage stylings was merely a diversion and I was curious about Cults, who are on the fast track to blowing up, but I was mostly looking forward to my first Sleigh Bells experience and they didn’t disappoint. There’s not much to the performance itself but it’s as good a time as one might have at a concert, and I completely agree with Matthew Perpetua’s excellent appraisal of Sleigh Bells at Tuesday’s show:

Like the music itself, the show is elemental and assertive, simple enough to be obvious, though novel enough to make you wonder why no one has ever really done it quite like this before.

–Matthew Perpetua, Devil Horns Best Friends, Fluxblog, May 12 2010

To Perpetua’s list of adjectives, I would add: visceral, immediate and cathartic; apocalyptic yet ultimately triumphant. It’s pop, punk and hip-hop, compressed to the limit of listenability, which somehow makes it all the more appealing… or overhyped, depending on your point of view.

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As for the music itself, Alexis’s vocals strike me as more riot-grrl than M.I.A., though affinity is clear: those drum-machine-gun beats could turn a ghettoblaster into a Future Weapon, while Derek’s SG delivers more hardcore riffage than most indie kids would dare (he previously shredded for Poison the Well).

Even so, the sonic assault scarcely belies the sheer catchiness of the tunes, and Treats is the first party album of the summer whether you like it or not. Sleigh Bells are the band of the moment, and frankly there’s nothing wrong with that.

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