Quick Concert Review: Sleigh Bells

The encounter occurs after the witching hour somewhere dark, crowded and underground. From the moment your eyes meet, it’s ON. Your instant chemistry is not of the smoldering variety, it’s a forest fire of forbidden attraction. This is clothes ripped, neighbors awakened, sheets ruined, blood-spilled attraction. This is your personal PCP trip through the Garden of Eden, forever soiling any memory of purity and innocence …but in a good way. And this, dear friends, is how I feel about Ms. Alexis Krauss after seeing Sleigh Bells again last Friday night. I’m…wrecked.

Ms. Krauss’ versatile vox transitions effortlessly between the sing-songy innocence of a school girl to the full-throated scream of a woman being waxed ecstatic. This conflation conjures up some pretty risqué images, and it feels accurate to describe Sleigh Bells’ music as barely legal aural sex.

This isn’t your parents rock and roll, with it’s thickly veiled lyrics and scandalous hip shakin’. (I’m all shook up!) This isn’t the thinly veiled lyrics of yesteryear or the flaunting of one’s sexual availability popularized by Michael, Madonna, and later Britney, Christina, and their fellow sluts. This music…this music is a ravaging romp of sexual aggression that belongs on 8mm in seedy theaters pocked with shady customers making no apologies for their proclivities. This is definitely not Barry White…no romance or pretense, no love will be made, no candles lit. Well, no candles for warm, soft ambient light, at least. This is the variety that can’t and doesn’t wait until a bed is in the vicinity.

The music itself pulls from a variety of influences without ever being remotely derivative. Let’s start with a broad-side slap to the head of 80s metal guitar inflected with the vibe of early Beastie Boys and hardcore punk. Let’s slap in a dab of electr(on)ic ambience a la M.I.A. and strong thumping bass drum lines. The aforementioned vocals are layered on top, underneath, behind, and in every other conceivable position, evoking the innocence of childhood one second, XXX moaning the next, and jack-hammering anguished screams the next. It’s not a stretch to say that Krauss is able to emote all major human conditions, often in a single song. A breathiness that evokes the shoegaziness of Lush quickly escalates to throaty screams that Robert Plant would find impressive. The kind he heard coming from Jimmy Page‘s room, naturally.

This was not destined to be a tantric encounter by any means, with one album comprised of eleven songs in their back pocket. Eleven tunes that are ripped from the songbook and thrown out to the audience unapologetically and with mutual satisfaction assured, even if reciprocation is an afterthought. This is primal. This….is hardcore.

This bullet train met a packed-past-the-gills crowd at DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel last Friday night. The enthusiastic crowd emerged after a frenetic 50 minutes hot, sticky, wet and glowing from head-to-toe. A crowd that had gyrated and danced uncontrollably and without a sense of a structured world outside there and now. A crowd that realized how out-of-control one is when dropping pretense and convention to embrace their primal desires. For one night, the automatons that often attend shows in DC embraced their inner Jim Morrison and danced like the devil once the forbidden fruit had done its deed.

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