By Andrew Gospe
It’s hard not to think that bands like Sleigh Bells represent the future of rock ’n’ roll.
Genre boundaries are more blurred than ever, and guitar-based music is finding itself increasingly phased out of the popular consciousness by rap, R&B and EDM. The Brooklyn-based duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller has achieved near-mainstream success in this environment by working with non-rock influences. Hip-hop flavored beats and Krauss’ cooing, bubblegum-pop vocals share space with Miller’s meat-and-potatoes guitar riffs and a compressed-to-smithereens production style.
It’s a hyperactive, instantly gratifying take on rock music, ideal for the egalitarian, borrow-everything Internet culture of 2013. Or, for that matter, of 2009, when the group’s demos began to make the rounds on music websites, quickly leading to a record deal.
Their third album, “Bitter Rivals,” came out earlier this week, and it finds Sleigh Bells’ formula wearing a bit thin. The album boasts uniformly strong production — it was mixed by Andrew Dawson, best known as Kanye West’s go-to studio engineer — but the group’s songwriting and ideas often sound tired, rehashing the same tropes that seemed so fresh on 2010 debut “Treats.”
What new ideas are there aren’t all good. Krauss abandons singing in favor of half-rapped verses on some songs, including the title track, and the results sound amateurish. The best songs, like “Sugarcane” and “Young Legends,” find the band focusing on melody over volume.
However mediocre the new album is, it will hardly matter Saturday at Showbox at The Market. This bombastic music is meant to be heard live, where it’s performed with a Marshall stack and, as of recently, a live drummer. It’s almost enough to make you think Sleigh Bells were a traditional rock band.
Andrew Gospe: @gospea