Sleigh Bells – Treats
Mom & Pop Music: 2010
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The line between indie rock and hip hop is as thin today as it has ever been. Unlikely collaborations are popping up all over the musical spectrum. But where some artists are merely paying lip service to one another, what with Jay-Z tossing around Dirty Projectors lyrics in interviews, Sleigh Bells has gone ahead and torn the walls down. With their debut album, Treats, the Brooklyn duo of Alexis Krauss, a school teacher and teen pop group alum, and Derek Miller, former guitarist for the post-hardcore outfit Poison the Well, have created a record equally indebted to punk, metal, indie rock and hip-hop. That the album has accomplished this packed to the brim with banging beats, ferocious riffs and catchy hooks is a wonder.
Krauss’s voice at once recalls the saccharine rush of the Pixies’ Kim Deal and the tough snarl of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. Miller’s beats are a brash mixture of classic Def Jam-era Rick Rubin and the bleating synths and simplistic drum patterns of crunk. His guitar work is as much informed by the offensively dense wall of sound of the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine as it is by ’80s hair metal. The massive “Infinity Guitars” plays out like a mission statement; a serrated, punky guitar riff cuts like a buzz saw through bottom heavy, golden age boom bap while Krauss barks out some chant about dumb whores and best friends. Think Sleater Kinney covering Licensed to Ill. Or the Go-gos covering the Clipse’s “Grinding”. Your stereo is not ready.
The first half of Treats is a near seamless suite of overly loud but irresistibly danceable riot grrl boom bap, but the back half is where things get interesting. “Run the Heart” pumps the breaks a touch, smothering what could have passed for a laid back slab of Southern-flavored R&B with waves of mock-tinnitus feedback and a cavernous, trunk-rattling thud of a beat. “Rill Rill” ditches electric guitars for acoustic ones lifted from Funkadelic’s classic Maggot Brain deep cut “Can You Get to That” to provide a much needed chill pill. “Straight A’s” ratchets the tension back up for a raucous hardcore spazz out. The record closes with the lumbering title track, which is a doff of the cap to the days when the Beastie Boys used to rock over Led Zeppelin breaks for largess, menacing power chords and titanic 808s desperately jostling for attention.
The marriage of guitar rock dynamics to a hip hop swing and poppy melodic sense is nothing new, but never has it been this shockingly loud. The lazerbeam synths on opener “Tell Em” alone make El-P’s car crash symphonies sound like chamber music in comparison. Everything in the mix hits like a ton of bricks, but for all the thick fuzz that coats it, the album is maddeningly simple and unassuming in its execution. All embellishments get tossed out the window, bass lines included. Sleigh Bells have pared down pop songwriting to its absolute core elements and filled in the holes with a blanket of noise. Mangled and distorted, but also incredibly tuneful and gracefully brief, Treats is well worth the earache its harsh sonics will likely induce.