Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
Let's start by saying that Sleigh Bells certainly haven't gone soft. The cool-as Brooklyn duo delivered a 2010 debut that was the sonic equivalent of a battering ram; despite its pop-metal experiments thrashing about at the WTF end of the 'party music' spectrum, Treats was a surprise hit with critics and the indie kids for whom the five-lads-and-a-guitar setup was simply too boring.
Unsurprisingly given its title, Reign of Terror hasn't drastically altered the noisy pop shenanigans previously established by guitarist/producer Derek Miller and vocalist Alexis Krauss. This is not an album you want to hear while nursing a hangover: it might actually make you implode. However, for anyone wanting to do another go-around on this bumpy, funky sleigh ride, then the final destination - which sounds like the world's messiest, merriest party - is waiting. Just press play.
The terror begins where Treats left off, and sounds what the opening ceremony of the Olympics might sound like if it was kicking off in Hades [insert opportunity for a funny here]. 'True Shed Guitars' throws applause, handclap beats, metal riffs and a shouty intro to Krauss's charismatic circus master from the speakers, and you may despise its unapologetic shambles; if you do, start screaming to get off. Ramshackle staples of Treats are immediately apparent once more - pummeling beats ('Born to Lose'), catchy pep rally chants ('Crush') and bludgeoning guitars ('Demons') are never far off, and you get the feeling Sleigh Bells' penchant for noise and bratty sloganeering, coupled with their disregard for convention and genre, was what attracted M.I.A. when she originally signed the band.
However, while the harder parts are harder than ever, the melodies are stronger too; whereas you often had to dig deep for the hooks to become apparent on Treats, you might even find something approaching a chorus or two here. The dreamy pop nous only hinted at on their debut is sharpened here, so the warmer synths and Krauss's often sugary, coy vocals soften the edges and weirdness of tracks like 'End of the Line' and 'You Lost Me'. Heck, 'Road to Hell' might even be pretty enough to feature on daytime radio.
Despite some of the shapes of these songs beginning to resemble 'proper', conventional pop songs though, the layers of noise continue to be thrown on top with gleeful abandon. It's this approach that marks the band out as one to be enjoyed; however, it's also a niggle, as you won't always be in the mood to enjoy or appreciate the grimy, sexy madness. As with Treats, to listen to Reign of Terror in one sitting without your head throbbing even slightly is a challenge; the overloading of disparate elements is always preposterous and, frankly, you might well come away feeling shattered. However, even though it will likely give you a headache, it's mostly heaps of fun.