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Sleigh Bells - Kid Kruschev (Album Review)

Thursday, 16 November 2017 Written by Jennifer Geddes

On the ‘Kid Kruschev’ EP, noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells work through both personal and political demons, creating their most cohesive work to date just a year on from the release of their fourth LP, ‘Jessica Rabbit’.

That album showcased a stylistic break from the confines of their old sound as they embraced new found creative freedom. By the time it arrived they had already started to cut back on Derek E. Miller’s metal guitars in order to experiment more with synth sounds, while they also set up their own label, Torn Clean, to release their music.

The decision to put out ‘Kid Kruschev’ so quickly is the next logical step. They like the idea of releasing shorter records at a more consistent rate, which in turn allows them to respond to recent events in a timely manner.

On Blue Trash Mattress Fire, vocalist Alexis Krauss wants to burn it all down, as she sings: “I’ll do it, I’ll jump / Not for kicks / Not for fun / But because / This shit is too much / It’s bugging me up/ Enough is enough.”

Sleigh Bells have always played with the contrast between Miller’s guitars and Krauss’s pop vocals, but here the two are in sync. Miller instead juxtaposes heavier passages with a softer tremolo sound, conjuring images of ‘50s America, teenagers, poodle skirts, high school dances and innocence, but all is not what it seems.

“Casual hatred / Taking place in everyday places," Krauss sings. The band use the symbolic colours of the American flag to comment on what’s really going on: “White trash, blue flame / Blue trash, Red rage.” Miller employs the same tremolo tactic, if more subtly, on Panic Drills. Here, Krauss is under the microscope as her bandmate’s guitar holds the two threads together. “Fuck me over / My dad died,” she sings.

Speaking of the release, Miller said: “Doesn't feel like the sky is falling, feels more like it fell.” Duly, rain and storms are regular touchstones. On Blue Trash Mattress Fire Krauss also sings: “And the downpours came like a brighter dream.” Show Me The Door, Rainmaker and Florida Thunderstorm, meanwhile, all utilise the motif sonically, with the latter representing the beginning of the end. The acoustic-led track is Sleigh Bells at their most stripped back, while the mood of the record has been slowly changing. It’s as though Krauss’s initial anger is now fading to sadness.

The final track, And Saints, is a stark electro-pop song where Krauss sings “Delivery guy wants to know if I'm OK (I'm OK) / Nah, man, but thanks” in reference to her grief. There’s hope, though, as she goes from ‘Tear up, tear up / Gear up, stand up” to “Cheer up, cheer up/ Gear up, stand up” as it progresses.

Sleigh Bells still revel in balancing on the line between good and bad taste, with Krauss’s witty one-liners and bubblegum imagery sharing space with Miller’s deliberately disjointed and discordant production. But freedom from restraint has allowed them to take an idea and run with it on ‘Kid Kruschev’. The result is a level of depth that they haven’t shown before.

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