What I’ve noticed since last fall when I first started following the buzz surrounding indie electro rock duo, Sleigh Bells, is that they are a band people either love, hate or don’t want to bother with because they have been so hyped. Comments I’ve seen around the interwebs have called their music “hipster bullshit.” Of course, this is a fairly common sentiment about a lot of music these days — I’ve even been guilty of thinking it every once in awhile. But that’s neither here nor there.
I was introduced to Sleigh Bells by a DJ friend of mine (OK, it was Shivvy, from the late, great WOXY), who played me a couple of their demo tracks — “Crown on the Ground” and “Ring Ring.” I’d been hearing about them for a couple of months prior, but hadn’t had a chance to look them up. After hearing those two songs, I was hooked. Their music was like nothing I’d been listening to and I was very excited to hear more. I got my hands on the rest of the demo recordings and played them to death. I couldn’t wait for their first full-length to be released.
Treats, which was recently released on M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. label, is the same loud, compressed, screechy, grungy, crunchy, dance rock as the demo recordings — only a tad more polished in some places. Close to half of the album is comprised of slightly reworked versions of the demos, with the other half being new material. Thankfully, the new songs are just as good as those that got (everyone?) amped in the first place.
The record starts off with “Tell ‘Em,” a new track which contains a riff that reminds me of the laser gun sound effects my brother used to make when playing with his Star Wars toys when we were kids. It’s a strong opener and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The demo track “Beach Girls” has become “Kids,” which has been shortened by almost a minute and reworked to feature layers of distorted background vocals and playground chants. It seamlessly transitions into “Riot Rhythm,” which sounds more like “Kids, Part 2” rather than a new track. Regardless, I like both of these tracks and, together, they are high points of the record for me.
Other favorites include “Rill Rill” (previously known as “Ring Ring”), which liberally samples Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That”; “Infinity Guitars,” a song that sounds like a collaboration between the Raveonettes and Le Tigre; the catchy-as-hell “Crown on the Ground,” which sounds like a cheerleader chant from hell; and the title track, which starts out sounding like it might be a cover of the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now.”
What I love most about this record is that it sounds like something two rebellious teenagers put together in their garage as a way to piss off their parents — right down to the cover art featuring a photo of a group of cheerleaders with their faces scratched out. Its compressed sound and bad sounding-on-purpose production value can be off-putting, but that’s what makes it work for me.
So, am I buying into “hipster bullshit” by loving this record? Maybe, but I don’t really care. This is fun, exciting, crazy music that hits me in all the right places. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters, right?