Matt Wilson Formulates Your Opinions About Music: Sleigh Bells, “Treats”

Brooklyn noise-rock duo Sleigh Bells sure picked the right title for their debut album. Not because it’s necessarily a treat to listen to it, but in that it’s essentially the musical equivalent of the sugariest or sourest candy you can think of. At first, it’s a sensation you’re not really used to, kind of exhilarating even in its discomfort. But keep ingesting it and it’s not long before you’re as sick as you can be.

Late last year, I downloaded the Sleigh Bells tracks that took the Internet by storm and I got a kick out of them, especially the aural assault that is “Crown on the Ground,” an unabashed beast of a track that’s more about distortion than it is singing or instrumentation.

And I’ll just get this out of the way right now: It’s the best track on the album by far. It’s also basically unchanged from the free demo versions that were floating around all over the web in the last quarter of 2009, as are all the other tracks that were released around that time. There may be a re-recorded vocal track here or an overdub of a guitar track there, but the reports that Sleigh Bells were going to re-create those songs from the ground up were quite overstated.

The most changed of the tracks, “Kids,” has been all but ruined. An echo on the vocals make the near-unlistenable and added-in screams just make the whole exercise unpleasant.

Speaking of unpleasant, many of the not-before-heard tracks simply push the same buttons, repeat themselves or get lulled into conventional “Pure Dance” as-seen-on-TV crappy techno territory. The worst of the bunch, “A/B Machines” will be one of those songs they use to lure terrorists out of hiding one day.

Sleigh Bells’ original handful of downloadable tracks showed a hell of a lot of promise for a new sound that mixed hard rock and thundering breakbeats, contrasted with sugary-sweet pop vocals. One day, if they can manage to hang around longer than their flash-in-the-pan blog band bretheren, they may realize their potential.

But this ain’t it.

You think: It’s pretty disappointing.

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