Ear-shredding pop
Sleigh Bells - Live At Oran Mor, Glasgow

Rescheduled from February, when the gig was cancelled due to a mystery illness, there’s lot of people in this crowd that have waited a long time to see this band again, and the sense of anticipation shows. The venue, the basement of an old church come restaurant/bar/theatre, already sways with heaving masses, and when the room goes black, the elongated intro to allow for set up of the stage is treated like the first track of the night, such is the cheer it gets, cutting through the gloom.

And then, out of the darkness, the noise of a guitar rings out, and spotlights go up to reveal two huge, identical Marshall stacks on either side of the stage, and then two identical male guitarists in front of each one, shades firmly on, before the huge, fat, dirty stomp begins and the places erupts.

Derek Miller and his twin are joined onstage by the mighty presence of Alexis Krauss, and we’re treated to an ear-shredding set that includes the likes of ‘True Shred Guitar’ and ‘Infinity Guitars’. Noticing a theme? Those guitars, by the way, are loud, screeching out in jagged bursts, driving the rhythms forward, jerky and tight and fraught with aggression. Who cares if most of what is being played is probably coming off a computer hard drive anyway? None of that crap matters when it does, admittedly, look cool as fuck.

Alexis controls the stage and the crowd throughout, taking them along with her as she screams, sings, shouts and laughs her way from track to track, and with the deep bass lines driving the atmosphere forward, she encourages the Glasgow crowd to go crazy tonight, and they do.

During ‘Rill Rill’ it feels like you’re watching a pop star, so comfortable is Alexis onstage on her own, you can see that performing is something she was born to do, and she’s damn good at it too, at one point raising herself on top of her adoring public and being passed around the room on her back, heads above ours as she sings a verse or two.

That pop sensibility is a disconcerting aspect for some, and there are even points where it gets almost saccharine. But then the bass kicks in and pulls it in another direction entirely, giving even the sweetest lines an aggressive, sinister tone, with even the most innocent R&B track displaying a digitised pulse that shows there’s a determined heart behind the sugar.

If you thought pop was a dirty word, Sleigh Bells might just be heavy enough, hard enough, crazy enough, and dammit, fucking loud enough to change your mind. Either that, or they could make you go deaf.

Words by Mark Millar

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