On their arrival in 2009, you ignored Sleigh Bells as easily as a freight train crashing through your front room. ‘Infinity Guitars’ was a cheerleader chant for the Belzebub Broncos; ‘Rill Rill’ the remains of country pop dug up from a post-apocalyptic desert. Over four albums New York duo Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller refined and reimagined the demonic pop assault of 2010’s debut album ‘Treats’ (MO: sublime siren melodies hovering serenely over all-out tech-punk warfare) until 2016’s ‘Jessica Rabbit’ found them conforming to a soft metal formula.
Conformity clearly left a sour taste. For this fifth record they’ve reverted to scintillating savagery. “Here we go! Illegitimate rock’n’roll!” Krauss cries over the electro rock rampage of opener ‘SWEET75’, later asking, “Aren’t you a little too old for rock’n’roll?” Perhaps – the electronic side of Sleigh Bells has undoubtedly matured way past the all-consuming fuzzbombs of their earliest records, taking on the gloss and polish of top-end laptops where once their songs sounded like they’d been dragged screaming and buzzing from a circuit board at Chernobyl. But age has not withered their attack; their original dynamic is back with a vengeance.
“I feel like dynamite,” Krauss squeals on ‘Locust Laced’, a crazed mash of go-go pop, torture-porn thrash metal and dubstep whomps climaxing in a wail of “send me an angel of death!” ‘Tennessee Tips’ is visceral pop metal building to a barrage of ray gun synth-punk. ‘I’m Not Down’ screws ambient textures into eviscerating tech rock while Krauss’ infectious melody appears to address sceptics of the COVID age: “Nobody cares when a line gets crossed / Nobody cares when a life gets lost”.
Elsewhere, Krauss again tackles affairs of the heart, as if wandering across the track of a monster truck derby reading lovelorn diary entries. “I can see the exit signs right behind your eyes / I can see the thunder clouds come rolling in,” she coos on ‘An Acre Lost’, while she describes herself as a “concrete calendar girl” picking her way around “landmines in my mind” on rave-riot ‘Justine Go Genesis’. The almost poppy ‘Knowing’ takes a more universal slant on long, dark nights of the soul – “I find myself awake in the dark with the same old shit screaming in my ears,” Krauss sings, swapping the subject from herself to fictional others as the chorus repeats – but Sleigh Bells certainly remain as brutal emotionally as sonically.
Touches of experimental ambience (‘Rosary’) and ‘80s fog-pop (‘True Seekers’) work well as light relief and ‘Texis’, as an exercise in full-throttle revitalisation, is dynamite indeed. Rock’n’roll ain’t done with them yet.
Release date: September 10
Record label: Lucky Number Limited