Here I was, thinking that I was the only one who believed dance-pop could use a little more Big Black, an idea that doubtful even Steve Albini, himself, would endorse. Then along come Sleigh Bells, the Brooklyn duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss, delivering a pop album so noisy, so ear-shatteringly loud that one can only conclude that these two were thinking the exact same thing I was, albeit to a much more explosive degree. Treats, the duo’s debut album, is the odd mixture of confrontational noise rock and super-catchy pop rhythms that, while likely to eviscerate your ear drums, is as charming as it is destructive.
Signed to M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. imprint, Sleigh Bells play off a similar kind of beat-heavy electro that Maya Araprulgasam does. Yet in 2010, it’s Sleigh Bells who released the (vastly) superior album. From the album’s cover depicting a cheerleading team with distorted faces, the listener should be keenly aware that he or she is in for a strange juxtaposition of the playful and the fucked. Single and leadoff track “Tell ‘Em,” in fact, sounds a bit like a drill team cheer backed with the visceral noise of mid-80s American punk, albeit filtered through even more intense effects. Those that aren’t yet reaching for their earplugs are subsequently treated to the brutal stomp of “Infinity Guitars,” the static-ridden electro pop of “Run the Heart,” the throbbing synths of “Rachel,” the sample based bliss of “Rill Rill” and the closing title track, which approximates thrash metal as fed through an early hip-hop remix filter.
Though Miller’s gigantic, distortion-friendly productions are ultimately what make the heaviest impact on Sleigh Bells’ debut, the lighter touch added by Krauss’ sugary vocals ultimately make them that much more interesting. Sleigh Bells’ take on pop music is noisy, and it’s infectious, but it’s anything but ordinary.