Once upon a time, there was this band called Le Tigre. They released three very good records between 1999 and 2004, filled with catchy electro-pop, showy beats conspicuously generated by a drum machine, absurd guitar riffs, and crunchy power chords.
Was 2004 really so long ago that the new buzz band Sleigh Bells thinks we might have forgotten about Le Tigre? (Actually, it's quite possible, given the nature of the disposability of our pop culture.) But as someone who hasn't forgotten Le Tigre, I find Sleigh Bells to be not just bad, but offensive.
Granted, it's not Midlake bad. That would imply that I could barely even listen to it. No, I can listen to Sleigh Bells' Treats. Hell, I listened to it four times, hoping it would grow on me. And the record's only 32 minutes long (though, after about 12 minutes, it really tested my patience). It would also imply that I thought the music was really terrible (as I did with Midlake).
But actually there are some cheap thrills to be had in listening to Sleigh Bells. It's like the aural version of eating Pop Rocks -- a couple of seconds of instantly forgettable novelty then no substantial payoff. That's what Sleigh Bells reminds me of. The over-the-top production (the record is loud as hell) and the totally unsubtle guitar and synth riffs almost reel you in, until you realize how stupid they are.
I suppose there's the possibility that it's all an exercise in campiness. And I could forgive Sleigh Bells for that and maybe even jump onboard for the ride. But then there's that whole issue of Le Tigre. Bands wear their influences on their sleeves all the time. No problems. Artists take liberties with the great ones' chord progressions and riffs in constructing songs. I get it. But Sleigh Bells rip off Le Tigre wholesale and dumb down the Le Tigre aesthetic in the process. No album released this year has offended me more.
I'd rather listen to: You know who (and for the record, I like you know who's least acclaimed record, This Island, the best).
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.