Sleigh Bells


What I love about Sleigh Bells’ debut album Treats is that they take a relatively simple formula for making music [take hip-hop beats, metal guitars and bubblegum pop vocals with a touch of electronica throw it in a blender and then turn it up really effing loud] and not only do they get away with it, they make just about everyone else look stupid for not thinking of it first.

One could very easily dismiss Sleigh Bells as a couple of one-trick ponies. It probably won’t be until about album number two before we know if that’s the case. Nevertheless, my gut says there’s more to this duo than meets the eye. Why do I feel that way? I think that what they’ve done is pretty genius. They’ve boiled modern pop music to its bare essentials and melded the various elements together in a collage of supersonic ear candy. Andy Warhol may have created pop art but what Sleigh Bells make is art pop. It’s loud, obnoxious and most of the songs don’t actually seem to be about anything. That is, about anything other than their own existence.

I love “Crown on the Ground” but I couldn’t begin to tell you what the heck it’s even about. I mean the album is called Treats for chrissakes, that should be a very obvious sign that Sleigh Bells are very much about giving us just the good parts. All at once.

Nearly a decade ago, there was a little unknown duo from Detroit known as the White Stripes that many people also tossed off as gimmicky one-trick ponies but they’ve gone on to become one of the most critically acclaimed bands (and still stubbornly relevant.) I don’t think Sleigh Bells will become as big as the White Stripes but I think the bands share DNA. The secret to the Stripes’ success comes from not just a gimmicky color-scheme but rather an adamant adherence to a musical philosophy: stick to a few simple elements but re-arrange them and constantly push them in as many opposing directions as you can. Sleigh Bells, I think, are the next logical version of the White Stripes. Where the Stripes are decidedly retro-looking, Sleigh Bells are unabashedly products of the here and now. They’re digital in all the areas where the Stripes are analog.

What Sleigh Bells have done with Treats is deconstructed and then reconstructed pop so that it simultaneously sounds like everything we’ve heard before and nothing we’ve heard before. Their music is a commentary about itself and, more importantly, about us. It’s a commentary on why we listen to what we do, HOW we listen to what we do. Maybe a more apt categorization would be post-pop. It is an album somehow designed for both individual as well as mass consumption, a headphone masterpiece and the ultimate party soundtrack all in one. That the album even works AS an album is perhaps its neatest trick.

Time will tell if Sleigh Bells ever develop the song-writing chops to actually give their songs a bit of emotional depth. Time will also tell whether or not doing so would even be good thing. I am not sure it would be. I tend to think their experiments in awesomeness will be best served by remaining unsullied by the volatile variable known as human emotion.

Just bring the noise guys, leave that sentimental stuff to some other band.