Sleigh Bells lives up to Treats’ hype with this one.
It’s no secret that Sleigh Bells has never quite lived up to the quality of their noise pop debut, Treats. The more guitar-driven Reign of Terror or their noise poppiest of all, Bitter Rivals, just couldn’t do the trick. With no standouts like “Tell ‘Em” or “Crown on the Ground” to speak of on their second and third albums, there may have been plenty of road-trip and dance-club fodder, but beyond that it seemed that the duo had peaked with Treats.
That brings us to Jessica Rabbit. With an extra smattering of synth and quite a bit of vocal restraint, Sleigh Bells’ newest effort is quite good. Before, you wouldn’t find much more than massive electronic beats, crunchily distorted guitars and vocalist Alexis Krauss either whispering or yelling earworm hooks you could never find on the radio because, damn they were noisey. Continuing where Bitter Rivals leaves off vocally, Krauss not only shows off her voice’s versatility, but she downright shines, giving fans perhaps her greatest performance to date. Guitarist and Sleigh Bells’ mastermind Derek Miller (formerly of Poison the Well) exercises his right to play blaringly loud riffs, but only when the right mood strikes—a level of restraint that can’t be found on any previous Sleigh Bells release. Jessica Rabbit, with its radio-ready synth sounds, bombastic ethos and a license to party is satisfying on almost every level—save for maybe its length, which, truthfully, could be a couple songs shorter. Regardless, this album can be considered a proper Treats sequel. Even if it is about six years late.
Jessica Rabbit’s opener, “It’s Just Us Now,” makes a clear statement from its opening seconds. Yes, Sleigh Bells will still rock your socks off. Yes, you may feel free to wantonly bang your head. But no, this isn’t Treats and it was never intended to be. With its synths, guitars, heavy-ass beat, tempo changes and Krauss’ vocal maturity, this is an album that ties the duo to their previous work, but it is distinctly aiming at something else: to be an artistic banger of a record as opposed to simply an alcohol-fueled romp under the strobe lights.
As Reign of Terror and Bitter Rivals lacked true standout tunes, Jessica Rabbit features some tremendous cuts. “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold” is mostly a traditional pop tune. It’s syth-fueled, beat-centric and features Krauss’ straight killin’ it on vocals. Subtle but somehow intense, this tune is certainly worthy of major radio attention. “Throw Me Down the Stairs” is a total crusher; big beats, huge guitars and a pissed-off darkness that evokes tracks like “Rill Rill” with some nice surprises in place of pure aggression. Check “Rule Number One” and “As If” if you want a tremendous blend of metal, pop and industrial noise fit for the club.
Jessica Rabbit holds its own with noisy juxtaposition. Sure, there’s some filler, but that’s okay. Sleigh Bells lives up to Treats’ hype with this one. And for folks who’ve lost track of the duo over the past couple of years, it’s time you get reacquainted because this thing is damn well worth it.