Hate Reign O’er Me
Is all that buzz you hear the mesmerized murmurs of Sleigh Bells fans or just the New York duo’s distorted production and resulting tinnitus? Their debut album Treats was a love-it-or-hate-it affair that nevertheless earned them an opening slot during LCD Soundsystem’s last waltz; the new Reign of Terror finds their reach a little broader (thank you, Red Hot Chili Peppers). Yet your faithful author has to ask: How the hell did this happen?
Guitarist Derek Miller and singer Alexis Krauss sound like they apply the White Stripes’ formula of minimalist yet powerful garage noise to electronic rock. Reign of Terror is two people holed up in a room spitting out filtered riffs and brittle drum machines circa Ministry’s The Land of Rape and Honey, with female vocals wavering between Lush girl-crush and Spice Girls’ girl-power. The real pain in the ass is, all of this applies to Treats as well. The apparent lack of imagination and development exposes that album’s hit single (“Tell ‘Em”) as little more than the beneficiary of a well-timed sound effect.
Krauss and Miller don’t rise much higher than particular points of mimicry, and not just of their own past work. “True Shred Guitar” and “Demons” both have the nerve to ape Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” while “You Lost Me” and much of the album’s second half suggest a much angrier form of shoegaze bordering on amped-up electroclash. Reign of Terror overall paints Sleigh Bells as incredibly shallow; everything is so loud and up front in the mix that there’s no back, no depth, no soul, and frankly no fun.