Review of Jessica Rabbit Album by Sleigh Bells

Despite an arduous genesis Sleigh Bells' fourth album, Jessica Rabbit, is more conventional than you might expect. The Noise Pop pioneers seem to have settled on a sound that leans heavily on the latter of those two genres. Stripping their music of the more abrasive tendencies of previous releases certainly leads to a less schizophrenic and more cohesive record. I must admit though, I do miss some of the more visceral thrills that regularly punctuated their songs, and which are deployed more sparingly here.

Sleigh Bells Jessica Rabbit Album

Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss haven't jettisoned the swagger they've always brought to the party, but the gestation of Jessica Rabbit has taken almost as long as their previous three albums combined. It's unsurprising then that these songs feel less spontaneous and more engineered for a purpose. That could of course be down to the involvement of producer Andrew Dawson; echoes of the ear splitting beats he's unleashed previously with Kanye and Jay-Z are in full effect here. Then there's the collaboration with Mike Elizondo on five of the tracks. He's another Hip-Hop alumni, who has helped to shift the focus away from the monster guitar riffs that dominated Treats and Bitter Rivals. Retreating towards the mainstream from the extreme fringes of sonic experimentation may on paper be a commercially sensible idea, but Jessica Rabbit ends up feeling tamer and less inventive as a result.

Let's be clear though, a Sleigh Bells album is unlikely to be an absolute dud. There are so many ideas thrown at the canvas that you can't fail to find something to love. While Krauss' lyrics are still brimming with anger and angst as she regales us with tales of unrequited love. It's actually her vocal performance itself, which is the highlight of the record. Her multi-layered contributions are higher in the mix than they've ever been and she's channelling Pop royalty with her powerful delivery. 'Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold' for example, sees her giving Taylor Swift a run for her money. Krauss' lyrics themselves may be darker in tone than her contemporaries, but she proves that Sleigh Bells greatest strength may have been hiding under all that noise in the past. "I'm waiting around for moments like these" she sings on opening track 'It's Just Us Now', if she's been waiting to step into the spotlight, her moment is certainly now.

Musically the shift towards fewer musical U-turns does provide more consistency and allows a less jagged sense of melody to gain momentum throughout these songs. While some fans may feel the guitar riffs have been relegated too much in favour of synths and beats, they are still there. It's certainly not a complete re-invention of the Sleigh Bells sound, but similarly to the approach taken by The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's on It's Blitz, there's a dramatic shift in the instrumental balance at play here. Foe the most part it's a successful move that prevents Sleigh Bells from sounding stale, but I almost wish they had gone in the other direction and pushed the boundaries even further than they had managed to on third album Reign Of Terror.

Perhaps the most telling moment here is 'Torn Clean', an ethereal and soaring slice of Synth-Pop that perfectly signposts Sleigh Bells' new approach. It's not exactly a shock that the band has used this title for their newly founded label. Jessica Rabbit is the first full-length release for Torn Clean and it certainly won't be the last now that the duo has their Pop chart rivals firmly set in their sights. If this record is your introduction to Sleigh Bells, that's no bad thing, but perhaps a little less sheen and a little more chaos could have made this uniquely unforgettable rather than simply another adventurous Pop record.

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