One could eloquently describe Sleigh Bells’ fourth album as a band harnessing their raw power and pushing it in new exciting directions. Alternatively you could say it’s like a sonic whirlwind that jumps in through the window, fucks up your shit, then leaves. Either’s good.
Keen to change up their sound after painting themselves in a somewhat noisy corner by dropping three albums in three years, ‘Jessica Rabbit’ sees the duo take a step back before launching a fresh attack. By teaming up with producer Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre) for five tracks and by adding some truly berserk drum patterns and pop sheen to proceedings, the group have themselves their most impactful release since their genre-bending debut ‘Treats’.
From the off it’s clear the album’s fourteen numbers contain enough taught and explosive songwriting to grab the ear of even the most apathetic listener, while also boasting Alexis Krauss’ best vocals to date. Gone is the indie snarl of old, now being the time to make way for the warrior queen — and we couldn’t be happier. Opener ‘It’s Just Us Now’ sets the pace, familiar anvil-heavy guitars erupting from the void before the listener finds themselves among a surprisingly textured and catchy chorus. Echoes of Michael Jackson’s marriage of danceable pop and metal guitar during his ‘Bad’ period can be felt, just cranked up to an ear-bleeding eleven.
Even with a brief ethereal sojourn via ‘Torn Clean’, the first five tracks come at you with breakneck speed, Andrew Dawson’s mix ensuring that each final product sounds as crisp and affecting as the last. It is not until the dramatic 'Loyal For' that the pace slows, but not the menace. The following ‘I Can Only Stare’ proves an easy highlight, breezy keys and guitar licks smothered with some good old fashioned punk crunch as Krauss goes full-on ballad mode. It stands as a thrilling example of where SB have pushed themselves before a very slight mid-album slump appears, the following three numbers treading familiar ground.
Luckily the speed picks up with the enjoyably juvenile ‘Rule Number One’, a stomping thrasher with a good dash of nu-rave that kicks and screams before taking a U-Turn into sing-a-long territory, albeit with choice lyrics such as “It’s Monday night and you’re high as a kite watching Lion King.”
Sleigh Bells must be applauded for their experimentation on ‘Jessica Rabbit’, and it has provided riches, but as with earlier releases, the main weakness is a lack of emotional scope and pace over a course of an entire album. We may all want to set the world on fire sometimes, but we also just want to step back and watch it burn on occasion.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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