My initial critique of Sleigh Bells debut LP, Treats, was that it was a poor pop-star Kathleen Hanna imitation without talent. Sleigh Bells follows up with Reign of Terror, an even worse album that sounds like a coked-out teenage nymphomaniac making a webcam video karaoke-ing along to Def Leppard or Warrant. Treats was no treat, but Reign of Terror is an act of musical terrorism. The best thing about Sleigh Bells is that it’s not catchy enough to make much of a lasting impression. But it’s bad enough that I never want to listen beyond what it takes to Pitch-Fuck it.
A few years ago I genuinely hoped that Sleigh Bells couldn’t possibly amount to much more than a flash of a buzzband for hip kids to bounce around to and chant like the nymphomaniac cheerleaders they never had the chance to be. However, Sleigh Bells has come to be like my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): it stirs up a lot of discomfort every now and then, leaving a real mess and a feeling like I’ve had a flag-pole shoved into a body cavity.
A few days ago while watching Saturday Night Live with my dad I was reminded that the Karen-O wannabe accompanied by two soulless pairs of torn jeans on guitar still flared up, and are liked enough to be granted a major network television spot. My pops likes to think he’s open to new music, he’s always telling me about the bands he sees on David Letterman (his recent favorites are Florence and the Machine and Fitz and the Tantrums) so he insists against my protests that we catch a little bit of the band to see what the deal is. I try to promise him it’s terrible, but he wants me to know: his 61-year-old mind is OPEN.
One glimpse and I can tell he’s over it “She’s almost wearing shorts,” he remarks.The drum machine and limp metal guitars—which, by the way sound like the guitar sounds on a cheap Yamaha keyboard—has him reaching for the next channel. I make him channel surf our 17 stations for a minimum of 3 minutes before checking NBC again; to his dismay we missed the first joke or two of Weekend Update (his favorite segment) but it was worth it to avoid Sleigh Bells. We repeat the channel dance when they play their second song later.
For their second attempt to poison the public’s ears, Sleigh Bells has abandoned the riot grrl posturing in favor of poppier tendencies. Calling it an aesthetic waxes too artistic: this is not art, it is post-digestive waste. Reign of Terror is a lot like an IBS attack, which means the shit takes a few different forms, textures, and colors. As varied as it may be in style and texture it’s still shit. It’s metal shit and it’s pop shit, but there’s not much substance holding this loose stool of an album together.