Review Summary: Perfection
In the film This is Spinal Tap, the members of the band Spinal Tap propose the reason as to why they are better than every other band in the world. This reason is that their amplifiers go up to 11, while the rest of the bands in the world have to stop at 10. This makes them the loudest and therefore the best band on the planet. The reasoning may be dubious but reminds us of one thing- that loud is good. Sleigh Bells, a two-piece band out of Brooklyn, New York, seem to have taken this sentiment to heart. If Spinal Tap’s amplifiers went to 11, then consider Sleigh Bells’ at 14. They’re loud, they’re in your face and they have created perhaps the best work of pop of this millennium with their debut album Treats, which just may become the soundtrack to your summer.
Treats starts in grand fashion, as you would expect from the loudest band in the world. The album is kickstarted by the album defining anthem “Tell Em.” The guitar opens up, loud and distorted, and is followed by a hi-hat roll on the drum machine and clap that seems, if possible, too loud for its own good. By the time Alexis Krauss’ vocals kick in, you’re either hooked or have turned off the music and forsaken the band for good. It’s during the hullabaloo and commotion of “Tell Em” that you realize not only that the music is extremely loud but also highly entertaining. The omnipresent bass beat, the breathy vocals and the occasional guitar punch combine to make a cohesive yet chaotic listening experience.
This pattern is the one that Sleigh Bells takes to the extreme, but without wearing it out. Songs like “A/B Machines” may have less verbal variety than a Dr. Seuss book, but maintain their appeal through the music and Krauss’ voice. Perhaps the most important factor of the band is that a different part of the music is emphasized in each song. Be it the synths on “Rachel,” the drums on “Riot Rhythm,” or Krauss’ vocals and sense of humor on “Kids,” every song has a different piece of the puzzle to highlight and emphasize. Driving a different nail in each time, Sleigh Bells make you forget that most of the background is just, well, noise. This is part of what makes this venture such a successful one.
Another thing that separates Sleigh Bells from the rest of the ‘too loud for their own good’ ilk is that beneath the surface of overtly loud music and programming is genuine, sugary pop music. Krauss navigates through the musical turmoil with a large arsenal of moans, howls, chants and, naturally, actual singing with enough range and variety to maintain diversity throughout the widely varying sonic landscapes. The hooks, which are delivered in all the aforementioned manners, are always infectious and so delightfully simple that you wonder why nobody has done this already. The beats are just as loud as everything else, yet as unobtrusive as the ones you would find in a Lady Gaga song. Sleigh Bells may not sugarcoat anything, but they certainly don’t overindulge either.
And the lack of overindulgence is what allows Sleigh Bells to explore in their niche genre. Songs like the Crystal Castlesesque “Straight A’s” and the Funkadelic sampling “Rill Rill” may not sound as refined as the rest of the music but are, in their own way, wondrous. These two songs explore two completely distinct ends of the musical spectrum; “Rill Rill” is a slow, acoustic backed song while “Straight A’s” brings the most chaos of any song on the album, yet they don’t seem out of reach for the band to pull off. These exercises in diversity pay off as they give the listener a chance to take a break from the action and revel in it, respectively. Frankly, the album would be boring without songs like these, and these tracks are also part of what makes Treats a special album.
In effect, Treats is like the soundtrack to the party that you went to and got way too drunk and had way too much fun. Beginning with “Tell Em,” the rest of the album tends to follow suit as a 32-minute orgy of noise, noise and more noise coupled with creativity and a cheerleader mentality. If that doesn’t sound like an awesome party, then avoid the album, but if it does, welcome to the time of your life.