The old rock ‘n’ roll adage tells us “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” And while that snarky nugget of wisdom has become a bit of a clichÃ© since Kiss’ heyday, it’s not entirely outdated. But sometimes age has nothing to do with it. Sometimes it actually is too loud. And in the ever-widening realm of indie, there isn’t a single band more obsessed with this sort of sonic excess than Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells.
Comprised of co-songwriters Alexis Krauss (vocals) and Derek E. Miller (guitarist), the pair netted all the necessary blogosphere buzz following the release of their 2009 self-titled EP, which served as a proper teaser for their debut “Treats.” The album was released on M.I.A.’s label (who was also one their early promoters) and turned the duo into runaway favorites among the indie intelligentsia. While almost insufferable at times, “Treats” exhibited the duo’s penchant for coupling Miller’s colossal glam rock overdrive with Krauss’ twee-pop sensibilities. It was jarring, immediate and even cathartic. But while their follow up, “Reign of Terror,” isn’t necessarily a far cry stylistically, the album drags as a result of uninspired songwriting and flattened production.
From the outset “Reign of Terror” boasts all the familiar components: ritzy hair metal riffs, ethereal vocals and powerhouse drum loops. It’s also rife with all kinds of arena rock gimmickry as “True Shed Guitar” opens with Krauss – in her best Joan Jett interpretation – greeting a stadium of adoring “fans.” But from thereon it’s more or less just one lackluster stadium banger after another that’s devoid of all the charm and craft that gave “Treats” so much replay value.
While the infectious bounce of “Crush” and the propulsive sneer of “Demons,” echo what made Krauss and Miller’s wall of sound aesthetic so appealing, the rest of the album seems to be so pre-occupied with textures and volume that the end product ends up becoming one diluted mess of anti-climactic nonsense.
There are some interesting concepts floating around “Reign of Terror” but few too many sound half-baked and undeveloped.
From the lazy sway of “Go To Hell” and “Born to Lose” to the aimless distorted pitter-patter “Never Say Die,” “Reign of Terror” ultimately fails to live up to all the hype. It’s a bold slab of noise pop that carries more style than substance.
In a nutshell, Sleigh Bells is like what would happen if Debbie Harry cut a record with Ratt. But “Reign of Terror” sounds more like what would happen if they had made that record on PCP.
1.5 stars out of 4 stars