Words About Music
Sleigh Bells “Bitter Rivals”
Early last year, noise pop duo Sleigh Bells released their second album “Reign of Terror” which happened to be one of the best albums of that year. Ever since 2010 they’ve been dosing us with a healthy supply of noisy guitars, drum machines, Funkadelic samples, and the sugar-sweet vocal stylings of Alexis Krauss (although she does have the capacity for yelling if need be). Less then two years after “Reign of Terror,” Sleigh Bells have returned with their surprise third studio record “Bitter Rivals,” a bitter combination that continues their hot streak of good albums that blur the lines between noise and pop with each release.
Now technically speaking, “Bitter Rivals” is probably Sleigh Bells’ worst album. It lacks a single as great as “Comeback Kid” or “Infinity Guitars” and some of the ideas are a little too similar to the group’s other work to make this a true standout release. The duo does seem a little bit less inspired by 80s hair metal for this record though (apart from “Minnie” which almost reminds me of Def Leppard) and a little more influenced by punk groups like Blondie and even a little bit of Melt-Banana. There’s even a little bit of synthpop on this record. So while “Bitter Rivals” does seem to rehash some old ideas, there is a little bit of originality located within this album which really keeps it from being a totally terrible album. Songs like “Sing Like A Wire” feel like Bananarama or Bangles songs that got an unexpected jolt of complete punk energy. “Bitter Rivals” could be a grower like “Reign of Terror” was, but I’m not too sure.
If Sleigh Bells have proven anything with this album, they’ve proven they can be consistent, even if that means releasing a not-so-great album. I don’t think it will tarnish their career or make me think any less of them. Their music is still incredibly fun to listen to and they’re still one of the most original sounding pop groups in modern music, but “Bitter Rivals” is still something of a speed bump. For one thing it’s only a half hour, making it feel more like a half-hearted EP at times. I’m sort of leaning positively on this album, but I’m also somewhat on the fence. Some songs rule, some don’t, some lyrics are great, some aren’t, and some songs feel like rehashed ideas while others feel like honest experiments. I’m still a big Sleigh Bells fan and I anticipate more music for them, but I do hope they take more time in between releases to really try and do something that doesn’t sound like B-sides from “Reign of Terror.”
SCORE – 6.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Bitter Rivals, Minnie, Sing Like A Wire, Tiger Kit, To Hell With You, 24, Love Sick