Mom + Pop Music
In 2010, Sleigh Bells exploded on the scene. With camp befitting their name, what reviewers affectionately called “loud” in a time where folk indie rockers like Fleet Foxes were dominating the scene, their music was a revelation which created ripples through modern music for years to come. The lyrics were almost nonsense to begin with, likened to twisted cheerleader cheers, it was an exercise in utilizing and making fun of teeny bopper music and heavy metal riffs. Whatever it was, it worked.
The next album, Reign of Terror, found them getting more dramatic and serious, while still utilizing their signature bombast (only a year or so after their debut, Treats). It was dark, owing to the content based on Derek Miller’s loss of his father to a motorcycle accident and his mother’s fight with cancer. Something you could sink your heart’s teeth into and properly rock out to at the same time. Bitter Rivals, which came out a year after that, which was treated unfairly in reviews in my opinion, just continued the duo’s wonderful momentum.
Everything changed with their follow up album, Jessica Rabbit, which was released a full three years later. The title was the only pop-charming thing about the album. It was a stark left turn into the more mainstream (even gothic) realm, songs that still had hints of Miller’s ground-breaking riffage, but which leaned more on cheesy keyboards and a surprising emphasis on Alexis Krauss’s now-pop-saccharine voice and almost too literal lyrics. I applaud them for their reinvention. But I admit, they almost lost me. If I wanted to hear that type of music, I’d turn on Brittney Spears or Gwen Stefani or Evanescence. And I don’t turn them on for a reason.
Kid Kruschev followed that vein. But, somehow, they started winning me over again. Finding myself more at home in Krauss’s vocal direction, and the cohesiveness and the pathos of a fairly good album, that wasn’t as all over the place as its predecessor. It was a good album, just not, in my opinion, a Sleigh Bells record, in its proper form. Fast forward to 2021 and Sleigh Bells’ anticipated new release, Texis.
With the release of two singles, “Justine Go Genesis” and “Locust Laced” it seemed like a return to form. It added back into the mix their signature humor and intelligence. And Miller’s killer, campy guitars. After listening to the full album, I see it as the culmination of their entire career. The album title’s name puts them in the center of our political circus and the lyrics have benefited from a return to abstraction, while introducing some of their maturing sense for story telling.
It really is a beautiful marriage of all of their albums preceding. Krauss gets to let loose as the virtuosic singer she has become, and Miller lets loose as the guitarist and composer which exploded so creatively on the scene with their first couple of albums. The keyboards they started introducing during the Jessica Rabbit period are also fine tuned to match Miller’s quirky guitars. It is an album that deals head on with the sobering reality of loss and the triumphant love of self and others, but in the idiosyncratic way that made their first albums classics in the canon of modern rock.
It’s the kind of album that could win over fans they lost as well as create new fans. The musicianship is brilliant and the chemistry between Krauss and Miller is the best it’s ever been. They start out the album, “Here we go, here we go / You’re legitimate rock n roll.” And that’s what the next 35 minutes do: they rock your face off, titillate your mind, and pierce your heart. Once again, Sleigh Bells are a revelation. And one that’s better for all the work they’ve put in over the last decade of honest creation.
Pre-order Texis by Sleigh Bells HERE