Sunday, April 18, 2010

(Guest Post!) Sleigh Bells

Note: Sleigh Bells are currently touring, opening for Yeasayer. They stopped by the Fillmore SF on 4/17. Intrepid Clatter correspondents Eric & Kathy had it covered:

Sleigh Bells are a thrash metal dude and a hot hipster girl. They play seriously heavy low-end reverb with aggressive female vocals laid on top, using just a guitar and, I don’t know, a laptop?

I was asked to review this show after recently confiding to Clatter personnel that my favorite thing lately is noisy pop-punk with female vocals. This isn’t pop-punk (the geniuses at Pitchfork called it “discordant dancepop”), but in some ways that’s better; of the 4 songs on the Sleigh Bells Myspace page, I like the noisiest and most D&B heavy (“A/B Machines”, “Infinity Guitars”) best. [It does kind of bum me out though that one of those 4 songs ("Ring Ring") is either a joke song or a Funkadelic ripoff throwaway. Stereogum has a fifth song (Beach Girls"), but that's not my favorite either.] Derek Miller (the thrash metal guy) likes his bass as low and distorted as possible, and Alexis Krauss (the hot hipster girl) -- her singing is actually more like chanting. Before going to the show I was already predisposed to like them; they’re “a difficult listen,” and in just the right ways.

We arrived at the Fillmore at a little before 9:00. There was a technician in a red hoodie working on the center stage monitors, and a woman in a holstein-inspired tie-dyed bag standing off to stage right, massaging her own throat. My wife said: “That can’t be [Krauss]; that’s not a very rock star outfit.” Well, it was her, and soon enough the lights went down and she ran up on stage to join the red-hoodied dude, who pick up a guitar and turned out to be Miller.

They launched into “Infinity Guitars.” Now, before the show I hadn’t really heard Yeasayer (the headliner) and didn’t know what their fans would be like, but they seem like a polite bunch. Here they mostly just nodded along. It felt like Krauss was yelling at them, though, and I kinda liked that.

The second song was new, and Krauss said it would appear on their album in May. I didn’t catch the name. Two syllables, starts with maybe a T or a C? It contained the upbeat lyric, “Do your best today.” Hmmmm.

The third song was “A/B Machines.” You’ve been to their Myspace page, so you already know this, but this song is awesome. It actually got the crowd moving a little bit. And Miller is totally right about one thing: that deep, deep distorted bass cuts through everything. My notepad was vibrating, and so were my pants legs. On the fourth song (“Beach Girls”), Miller departed the stage and left it all to Krauss, who by then had thankfully removed her black-and-white bag.

The fifth song was another new one. It was a slow, sludgy, metal-inflected slog that ended with haunted house shrieking by Krauss. Then something happened: They started playing something, and I’m not sure whether it was a separate song or an ending to the metal slog or what, but it was a quick minute or two, distinctly more uptempo, and almost danceable. What was that? (Besides my favorite part of the show, I mean.)

Here is a picture:

Sorry that I don’t have anything better. My wife & I haven’t quite gotten the knack of taking concert photos. Still, here is another one:

Next came one more new song. It was hard to distinguish from the others, because these guys have a sound, you know? But it had a talky bit and more moans from Krauss, but here (unlike on “Beach Girls”), I felt as if they contributed something.

“Crown on the Ground” came last. This is the closest thing these guys have to a pop song. Some people in the crowd actually started pogo-ing. And really, the bass-heaviness went over the top here; you know how in movies when an Air Force test pilot is going faster than the speed of sound and the skin on his face ripples? Well, that’s how my skin felt with all the throbbing on this song. And now that I think about it, that’s actually a good thing.

Here’s a little snippet of video from that song.

Like I said: awesome. If Sleigh Bells would inject a little more pop into their other songs too, they would totally clinch their place as my favorite new band. So in all, that’s 4 old songs, 3 or 4 new songs. And some of the new ones were pretty good. The show didn’t confirm either the hype or the backlash; they’re just a band, right? And are you going to listen to their full album when it comes out? Of course you are.

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