While the best albums to emerge during the opening months of 2010 were perhaps a little serious and dry (see Midlake, The National, Laura Marling), the ying to that yang has suddenly injected a load of fun and lightness into our earholes. Along with other young American breakthrough acts Best Coast and Surfer Blood, Sleigh Bells are contributing to a trend of credible but less worthy albums constructed for immediate enjoyment.
Ahead of the headliners, the tone is set by Teeth with a warm-up set of bleeps, drums and vocals from frontwoman Veronica So. An electro-punk outfit built for small venues like this North London boozer, they’re growing in confidence and stature, and despite the noise they produce, they come across as friendly and charming. With debut single See Spaces proving they’re not just a live band, their stock is rising.
Sleigh Bells meanwhile already have form. They’ve emerged this year as darlings of the indie scene, and with debut album Treats getting stunning reviews all over the place, this release date gig is a celebration. It starts with the stage in darkness, so dark in fact that it’s hard to see exactly when singer Alexis Krauss arrives. Dressed largely in black and with a deep fringe hiding her forehead, she finally becomes noticeable under the glow of a dim red light.
The now instantly recognisable onslaught of blasts, pows and power chords signal that Tell ‘Em is up first and, while it’s their signature tune right now, it doesn’t hurt to get it out of the way straight off. It demonstrates perfectly their ability to blend heavy noise with sweet melodies. And that’s their thing. Despite all the synths and Krauss’s vocals their sound is closer to metal than it is to pop or electro. Yet because they incorporate those genres it’s easier to listen to.
From there on it’s a series of the same short, sharp shocks that make up the album and, as with that album, it’s all over in barely half an hour. Tracks like Crown On The Ground and Infinity Guitars prove perfect for throwing yourself around to, while the relative subtlety of Rill Rill and Treats just sound good.
However, while Krauss is without doubt super in her role, looking every inch the glamorous rock icon and flinging herself onto the crowd for a spot of surfing, their stage show does need some work. Sleigh Bells are made up of just her and Derek E Miller, who is responsible for everything apart from singing and looking like a pop star. They don’t hide the fact that pretty much everything apart from vocals is pre-programmed; at times Miller leaves the stage as he doesn’t have anything to do. It’s early days for them, but hopefully Sleigh Bells will find a way of faithfully recreating their sound live in this kind of setting.