Sleigh Bells - Treats

In an interview with ABC News, Derek Miller spoke of Sleigh Bells as just one drawn-out hardcore breakdown, but that's really selling his group short. I've already written about singer Alexis Krauss as a Madonna descendent, and those wiggly pop sensibilities are what make Sleigh Bells the phenomenon they are. The brick-to-the-face songcrafts are the complement, not the focus. 

And really that's what's most disappointing about Treats—Sleigh Bells have so much to work with, but they've instilled so little of their own creativity that it's all stiff-in-the-hips head-scratching and very few moments of footloose clarity. I count maybe four (five if you count "Kids" as a song separate from "Crown on the Ground") fully fleshed-out songs here; the rest are linear sprawls that trip all over themselves on their way to the punch bowl. 

Their partnership with M.I.A. made a lot of sense amid the hype, and especially with "Rill Rill" floating around the Internet—Sleigh Bells are best when they're force-feeding testicular fortitude to gentle pop. They should be making us care about something we don't, bringing the ugly date to the dance to make us realize how cool she really is. But instead they show up to the Treats formal with two left feet.

The idea I keep coming back to is that Sleigh Bells are grim reapers of indie music. They're transitioning the genre to a state like '90s pop music in that albums don't matter anymore. These songs are built to be put on mixtapes and compilation albums, not their own creative work. Music operates at such a speed nowadays that maybe we can't expect any one band to keep up, and we should be looking for a movement moreso than a single band to lead the pack. I'm not sure how much there is to that idea, though. Hopefully we'll never find out.

But frankly, Sleigh Bells should have a lot more mobility than what's offered on Treats. However rudimentary their drum-and-bass setup is, there's a lot more space to roam than hardcore allows. Dubstep isn't exactly my specialty, but I've spent enough time in an Italian deli to have a decent idea about what kind of flexibility drum and bass can have. Not to mention prog rock or electronic takes on the same concept. It shouldn't be too hard for pop bands to fill in the gap; yet, here we are dubbing this a "riot rhythm." 

Sleigh Bells make their money on wholesale destruction. When they're on point, their thunderclap rhythms and skull-crushing riffs create the maniacal intensity that people want when they hear it. But Treats is more catastrophic than cataclysmic, and unfortunately most of its destruction is aimed at itself.

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