Sleigh Bells run out of experimental steam on Kid Kruschev

Kid KruschevBack in 2010, Sleigh Bells were a delightful breath of fresh air. The restrained aloofness of Alexis Krauss’ glacial vocal style was the perfect foil for Derek Miller’s raucous guitar work, that always seemed on the verge of going out of control. It was all held together by a bouncy but tight metronomic hip-hop heartbeat. They marked the perfect antidote to much of the bloated self-importance of the decade that past and served as an indication of the genre-queer approach that defines the current popular music paradigm. They made their art rock forebears, the formidable TV on the Radio, who had been at the very peak of their powers not too long before, look positively conservative in comparison (not necessarily to the fellow Brooklynites’ detriment, whose charm was in no small part down to the slickness at their core).

Suffice to say, they were pretty necessary at the time. No shortage of years has passed since then; the older demi-generation for whom Treats was an essential soundtrack of the great carefree years, has grown paunchy, swapped creative aspirations for procreative, risen to middle management positions the likes of which they could no longer delude themselves they are above. The younger has come of age and probably wished they hadn’t.

Sleigh Bells have been plodding along in the meanwhile, suffering somewhat from the law of diminishing returns. November 2017 see them plopping out another mini album, by the name of Kid Kruschev. To be frank, they’re not sounding anywhere near as essential as they once did. Perhaps they even sound a little bit bloated – the guitar work sounds theatrical rather than challenging; you might say the same for Krauss’ vocals, which feel laid on a bit thick.

Kid Kruschev is not devoid of charm. Opener “Blue Trash Mattress Fire” is pretty catchy in a cheesy, stomping sort of way (though there’s something that sounds suspiciously like an organ slide – one of the 7 forbidden sounds of music – and the lyrics are pretty atrocious). “Show Me the Door” runs a thrilling gamut between leftfield and naff which just about pays off.

The bilge is much more voluminous, unfortunately. “Favorite Transgressions” (the warnings are there) does that horrible road rock thing to which bands that are out of ideas tend to turn, and closer “And Saints” has a weird Ibiza ballad type feel which kind of feels like it needs a soft-top jeep, and wind machine for accompaniment. “Rainmaker” sounds like a member of a defunct vocal group back for an ill-advised shot at a solo career &c. The cumulative effect is perhaps of a band trying too hard to make sense in the current musical climate, which is more polyamorous, for sure, though which mostly swipes left for anything resembling ‘art’ in its pop (St Vincent and Grimes excepted).

Sleigh Bells may well have made a lot of things possible for a lot of other artists. It seems with Kid Kruschev, however, that we may have to consign them to history, as they did with so many no longer relevant bands before them.

Release: 10th November 2017, Lucky Number Records


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