Sleigh Bells - Bitter Rivals

by Greg Spencer Rating:5 Release Date:2013-10-07

Whatever you think of Sleigh Bells or however you want to label them, be it noise-pop, ultra-electro-shoegaze, it doesn't matter because they're an undoubtedly unique outfit. There is a lot of noise, a great deal of melody and a seemingly limitless level to which their soundscapes will soar towards. Bitter Rivals will definitely polarize people including fans of the band, not because they're finding new ground with this record but because the record as a whole doesn't seem to hang together as well as it possibly should do.

The opening title track begins with high-pitched, child-like squeals and aggressive dog barks until it then ploughs into full flow and batters down the door with this group's noise cocktail, as sickly as it is sweet. The problem with this band and the album is that it feels all surface and no substance. Yeah, there's great electronics, bizarreness and a sort of youthful exuberance that can be quite affable but where's the meat and potatoes here? Even the album cover has hints of Steel Panther naffness about it.

To enjoy this album you have to take it for what it is, and that's a silly and childlike collection of songs that don't seem to mean a great deal. The vocals from Alexis Krauss on 'Sugarcane' sound great, and in a way the vocals are pretty much the best thing on the record. Maybe this is just because they act as a through-line in what is quite a murky swamp of an album.

What you have to admire about this duo is how innovative they are. Heck, you may be with me and not like the music and want to bury your head in the sand after giving the album a few goings over, but what Sleigh Bells do have is a unique style and that's something to be applauded. The other admirable thing about them is that they obviously couldn't care less about reaching a mass audience or selling millions of records because this isn't catered for a mainstream audience, it's them just doing their thing.

'Young Legends' is a really enjoyable track and one which makes you yearn for more of the same. It almost feels like an old TLC track with added electronics. However this likeability just isn't matched on the majority of the album and it's a real shame.

You end up listening to the album three or four times, trying to decipher any sort of real emotive pull from it or grasp what the band are attempting to get at with Bitter Rivals. Whatever messages or themes that are possibly on this record fell on deaf ears, unfortunately. You're left with, as shameful as it is to say, an upbeat yet ungratifying cousin of Crystal Castles.

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