God knows how Sleigh Bells have made three albums out of this same kind of ‘music’, given that one song alone is enough to catch the cut of their jib – booming synths; shouty, sugarcoated vocals; and the same tinny drum machine thudding along in the background. For fans of the band, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed by Bitter Rivals – Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller haven’t yet taken off on a new Chopin-inspired trajectory, nor gone for a ’60s lean. Phewy! What they have done, however, is further honed their abrasive, and irrefutably energetic Brooklyn sound.
There isn’t much letup from their own frenetic formula – a formula which, for the most part, makes every song sound unidentifiable from the following. And by and large, Bitter Rivals thus makes for a fairly unrelenting half-hour – music for people with an acute form of ADHD and/ or ADD, and effectively few others. Minnie sounds like Angus Young dry humping a Nirvana riff with the DS-2 Turbo Distortion cranked up to 11. Young Legends continues in a similar vein, as does Tiger Kit, as does Sing Like a Wire, as does Sugarcane. You doubtless get the picture. And it gets slightly unsightly after a while.
In all honesty, I could probably use the exact same description for eighty percent of the songs from Bitter Rivals, considering that Krauss and Miller hardly ever digress from their noise-pop blueprint. This album doesn’t exactly deserve some form of Proustian monologue, anyway. Although if the majority of the record therefore sonically resembles an eight-year-old who’s just wolfed down a bag of strawberry bootlaces and subsequently bounces off the walls for a bit, then To Hell With You is the embittered mother finally sitting down with a cup of tea and letting out an enormous sigh. It’s the only real breather, standing out less due to any discernible quality per se, but more because it merely condescends not to rollick along at 160 bpm with the humbucker hum and cheerleader chants right up in your face. There’s no getting away from the fact that its title is still a pretty trite soundbite however, even by Sleigh Bells’ questionable standards.
Indeed, after a while, I found myself feeling the same way about Bitter Rivals as I do when I have to hear some dolt listening to their music out loud on the tube, or when there’s a dopey wasp buzzing about my head. It’s primarily a feeling of irritation, which is swiftly followed up by an acute desire to swat and sleigh either one of the two disparate critters. That’s the effect Sleigh Bells’ incessantly samey jingling has on me – it doesn’t make me angry in any righteous way, but simply really annoyed. About time they buzzed off…
Released: October 7th, 2013 [Lucky Number]