For some reason, I didn’t want to like Sleigh Bells. I didn’t even give Treats a full listen. They were too noisy for me. I am such a pansy.
After a couple of listens of Reign of Terror, I feel like I “get” Sleigh Bells now. They are just really fucking cool. On Reign of Terror, they are still making a ton of noise. The noise they produce, however, is melodic and beautiful. It’s loud but never annoying. They can soundtrack everything from mass murder to a John Hughes movie. Alexis Krauss’s vocals adapt adroitly to the beat she’s given. She cheerleader-chants on songs, such as “Demons” and the album’s lead single “Born to Lose.” But she also makes the “Road to Hell” seem like a great path to take as she whispers it smoothly over a soaring beat. From the tracks I’ve heard from Treats, it seems clear that Reign of Terror is set at a slower, more thoughtful pace. While on Treats the duo may have elected to make every song a deafening battle cry, this time around they take a step back and reflect. The beats are simpler but more intricate–sometimes less is more.
That being said, most of the time more is more. The album starts out with what sounds like a scene and song from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Derek Miller, the band’s guitarist, described the song as “a brass, arrogant, tasteless way to start a record,” and I have to agree with him. But I also think that part of the beauty of Sleigh Bells is that they are brass and arrogant. I mean, yelling “TRUE SHRED GUITAR!” over the shredding of a guitar is straight up Lil B ignorant, and it’s awesome at the same time. As the album continues, it grows apparent that Sleigh Bells are actually being serious. The album discusses themes of love, life, and death. One problem is that no matter how serious and “adult” these themes are, Sleigh Bells consistently sounds like they are talking about teenage problems. While “Crush” might be a cutesy homage to adolescent adoration, songs like “End of the Line” and “Comeback Kid” probably aren’t. But they sound like they are, and that’s a problem. Sleigh Bells are trapped inside of an 80’s era of bratty kids, Ray-Bans, and jean jackets, and it’s their own fault. They put themselves into this box after Treats, and now parts of Reign of Terror find them desperately trying to break out. “You Lost Me” is Sleigh Bells in slow motion–a new look for the band–which makes for an excellent treat (no pun intended). Even “Leader of the Pack” is softer than most of Treats, and the repeating vocals become hauntingly addictive.
The music of Sleigh Bells is loud, yes. It can get pretty obnoxious, yeah. But my god, this band is resilient. The very end of the album says it all. Behind the hammering guitar on “D.O.A.,” Alexis Krauss asks, “how come nobody knows how the chorus should go?” It’s an audacious question to ask, and, I think, it is answered by the last lines that triumphantly and abruptly end Reign of Terror: remember who you are. Well, um, Sleigh Bells did.
Album Rating: 7.5/10