February 22nd, 2012, 5:59 pm · · posted by GUEST
Like so many indie acts today, Sleigh Bells sounds more like a lab experiment than a band. It’s easy to imagine the Brooklyn-based duo (expanded to a trio on tour) sitting around mapping out the genomes of different bands, adding a few chromosomes of this or that style, attempting to create something new. Call them genetically-modified music.
For Sleigh Bells, who drew a packed house Tuesday night to the Mayan Theater in downtown L.A., the sweet spot combines the troglodyte guitars of Foghat and AC/DC, the punishingly propulsive loops and beats of dance music, and the staccato phrasing of rap. It’s an intriguing mix, but one that can just as often recall the thuddingly flat-footed sounds of Limp Bizkit as it does the exhilarating thrill rides of Justice and LCD Soundsystem or the unmapped territory of M.I.A. (“A/B Machines” comes the closest, and explains why she hired guitarist/producer Derek E. B. Miller to produce tracks for her next album).
It’s a sound that has plenty of energy, and with the guitars tromping over busy loops while singer Alexis Krauss chants and wails in her thin but keening voice, it’s remarkably convincing. Perhaps it’s just the Marshall stacks that make up their stage set, or the fuzz guitars and insouciant melodies of their writhing lead singer that massage the lizard brains of music fans, provoking automatic responses.
They certainly have studied their rock stagecraft. In addition to the wall of amps, their setlist is bookended by two songs that celebrate heavy metal thunder: “Total Shred Guitars” and “Infinity Guitars.” They’re also ear-splittingly loud. Yet it isn’t the steamroller blare of rock concerts but the deep, physical bass of dance music that vibrates right through your sternum.
That’s fine when they are pounding away, but the sound goes slack when they attempt anything close to a ballad. The slower, more serious-minded material from their second album, Reign of Terror (from Mom + Pop Music), feels like a slog; viscous and flabby, tunes such as “End of the Line” and “Leader of the Pack” point up the band’s limitations.
Thankfully, they don’t last long. Sleigh Bells are smart enough to know that their music is most effective when it hits and run, and they run through their 15-song show (including encore) in an efficient 50 minutes. That’s more than enough time to show off their charms and leave very enthusiastic fans hungry for what combinations they might attempt next.
Setlist: Sleigh Bells at the Mayan Theater, Los Angeles, Feb. 21, 2012
Main set: True Shred Guitar / Born to Lose / Riot Rhythm / A/B Machines / Kids / End of the Line / Comeback Kid / Tell ‘Em / Leader of the Pack / Straight A’s / Treats / Infinity Guitars
Encore: Rill Rill / Demons / Crown on the Ground
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