April 22, 2011
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Scott Witty
The helpless look on Jam photographer Scott Witty's face, after several attempts to capture some images of Sleigh Bell singer Alexis Krauss in ridiculous lighting, said it all. Exactly what in the hell had I gotten him into anyway. For that fact, what in the world had I gotten myself into? Three songs into the Sleigh Bells strobe lit set I totally understood the photographer's confusion.
Guitarist Derek Miller wall of sound deafens the crowd and numbs the senses. Krauss chants and groans out lyrics as she moves in trance like fashion on the stage. The light show, well, it only adds to the mystery (and total frustration for photographers), of a sound that really makes no sense. It didn't matter to this sold out crowd at the Granada Theater. The audience swayed their bodies to mimic Krauss as she weaved seductively around the stage. They bobbed their heads to every sonic gesture Miller's guitar made. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the scene that's still swimming in my head.
Sometimes a new band surprises you as to how good they are when you encounter them for the first time. On other occasions, they simply leave you wondering why you wasted your time. And then there is the rare instance where your ‘first encounter of the third kind' leaves you scratching your head mumbling simply, "Huh?" The Sleigh Bells fall into that last category. Krauss and Miller are currently the new darlings to the Indie Pop scene. They are part of a movement in music that never has a real name because it always fluid and changing. If anything, this current trend is a visual and audio rehash of punk tidied up and reclassified as a new genre.
Seriously, if anybody out there can describe to me in layman terms exactly what Indie Pop actually means, and what's so special and relevant about it today, they've got a job at Jam covering this quirky music scene. I'll tell you why. I don't get this power pop duo and I'm all knowing and seeing editor. Nothing about this group registers with me. Honestly, a review of the Sleigh Bells by Dallas-based journalist Brenna Rushing best summed up the concert. "The loud show sent anybody over the age of 40 to the door, leaving the young hipsters to enjoy the sold-out dance party."
The problem with the music business today, especially the Internet age, is this. Too many journalists, or those that think they're scribes because they can blog on the Internet, are desperately trying to portray themselves as cool by latching on to this band. These ‘in the know" writers are obsessed with the Sleigh Bells not because the music speaks to them. No, the Sleigh Bells are merely different, and the relationship between Krauss and Miller creates an exotic chemistry today's youth find very attractive. I'm not saying that's a bad thing either. Whatever attracts the masses and the media to a band in the always overcrowded music field is fantastic for the band itself. In fact, I had to log onto YouTube just so I could figure out the first song Krauss was gyrating to, "Crown on the Ground." It was one the band's very first breakout hits. I had to refer to it again to figure out the name of the only tune I actually found myself unconsciously bobbing my head to, "Tell ‘em".
Listen, I'm a rock and roll guy. I make no apologies for it either. So, before I get a headache over thinking something I still don't quite understand, I'll be brief. The Sleigh Bells are the darlings of a scene that will never be truly defined. They will continue to draw positive attention from journalists trying to be cool and hip. For myself, I gave up trying to fit in with that crowd when I got kicked out of my first interview by the hippest cat of them all, Tim Curry (i.e. Frank-N-Furter), because he was ticked off at me for trying to be cool and hip talking to him about his cult masterpiece, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
This Brooklyn-based duo will continue to create disturbing sounds backed by equally compelling shrieks, groans and sometimes lyrics. Journalists and fans throughout the country will rave about Krauss and Miller as they sell-out one venue after another around the country. Good for them. When a band like this can create a sensation based solely on sensory overload, it gives all types of up and coming groups hope. God Bless the Sleigh Bells.
"Time Warp" anybody?