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Review: Sleigh Bells' Album, "Jessica Rabbit"

"Jessica Rabbit" Seethes With Unbridled Electricity

Fans who are already familiar with Sleigh Bells’ very special brand of experimental, noise-pop should find something to enjoy on the duo’s vivid, never dull fourth studio album, ‘Jessica Rabbit’.

Comprised of vocalist/songwriter Alexis Krauss and guitarist/producer Derek Miller, Sleigh Bells do what is expected of them on their new release.

The new record doesn’t significantly expand on or offer any kind of new take on the Bells’ sound.

It can resemble the pair’s 2013 LP ‘Bitter Rivals’ - that’s probably not a huge issue for longtime followers of the band.

However after hearing ‘Jessica Rabbit’, many could find themselves revisiting previous Sleigh Bells’ records, because none of its neon tunes surpass the duo’s better known fire-starters.

The new LP’s animated tracklist seethes with jaw-droppingly unbridled electricity, but the songs themselves are rarely unmissable.

That said, several cuts on the project’s front end drip in appeal. ‘I Can’t Stand You Anymore’ and ‘Lighting Turns Sawdust Gold’ have their moments and deserve repeat plays.

Frontwoman Alison Krauss Never Lets Up

The album’s lyrics are basic, but deeply intense. They're usually delivered in a nursery rhyme-type fashion.

Even so, the LP’s words are pretty much made irrelevant by the album’s in-your-face charge, which demands a listener’s full attention.

Creatively speaking, many of the album’s tunes finish miles from where they started. ‘Crucible’ sounds like an extended, adrenaline-fuelled experiment.

One thing is for sure though, Alison Krauss is a bewitching frontwoman.

The 31-year old does some spirited vocal work on ‘Jessica Rabbit’ and gives a wholehearted performance on ‘Loyal For’.

The New Jersey born frontwoman flies unflinchingly through the album’s raging exploitation of music genres and never lets up.

The pumped-up ‘Jessica Rabbit’ is best served in the run-up to a heavyweight event, like a final exam, first date or big night out.

In many ways, it’s an album of fight music, designed to make listeners feel like they can conquer the world.

Anyone not in that headspace, who’s not already a Sleigh Bells fan will probably have no use for the record.

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Photo: Jillian Sollazzo
Photo: Jillian Sollazzo

"Throw Me Down The Stairs" is Musically Fearless

Driven by momentum and commencing with horrifying screams, ‘Crucible’ morphs from a crashing, rocky, stadium-filler into a chart pop-type framework.

The track’s lyrics muse on survival and bouncing back from failure. These kinds of topics work well on ‘Jessica Rabbit’ because the whole tracklisting emanates a strong go-getting, fighting spirit.

‘Throw Me Down The Stairs’ is the definition of musical fearlessness - it’s hard not to admire the Bells’ balls on this one.

The track kicks-off in a hurricane of heavy rock that’s soon upset by spiky production tricks.

As Krauss screams the tune’s do-or-die lyrics, its tempo is sparingly interfered with. Then, after a spacious breakdown, things start up again and laser synths are introduced into the mix.

Heavy Rock and Trance Merge on "Unlimited Dark Paths"

The instrumental of ’I Can Only Stare’ is relatively tame and operates on one level. On any other album this wouldn’t be a big deal, but on a record as constantly transforming as ‘Jessica Rabbit’, it’s noticeable.

’I Can Only Stare’ is a decent listen, however its arching, pop melodies recall several other recent pop tracks.

The trippy production of ’Unlimited Dark Paths’ is full of projectiles.

Krauss’s over-processed vocals are backed up by passages of heavy rock, which are later forced to make way for showy trance touches.

"Baptism Of Fire" Perverts Pop for its Own Pleasure

The anthemic, rowdy ’Baptism Of Fire’ takes traditional pop elements and gleefully perverts them for its own pleasure.

The track muses perkily on the darker side of desire, and the negative effects of craving something that is basically harmful.

‘Rule Number One’ whips up a storm - it’s absolutely stomping.

The cut juggles heavier rock sounds with hyper-pop passages. It’s lyrics seem to describe the thrill of living on life’s edge, as well as the initial rush and eventual come down, of using recreational drugs.

Following an uplifted, large-scale electro intro, ’I Know Not To Count On You’ hints at something more intimate. Krauss sings wistfully over light guitar accompaniment towards the two-minute tune’s midway point.

The High Octane, Distorted Energy of "As If"

’Hyper Dark’ also works contemplative, less assertive production. As the menacing cut’s twisted aura slithers more into focus, Sleigh Bells’ normal antics are nudged into the track’s background.

In contrast, any sort of sophistication is discarded for graphic fury on album finale ‘As If’.

Krauss sounds turnt up over the cut’s high octane, distorted and blippy energy - sections of it even incorporate machine gun sound effects.

Impacting like a patchwork of very separate ideas energetically tacked together, the tune’s chanty pop, fearless wordplay and proudly random, disordered structure are a symphony of chaos.

Verdict: ***** 5/10

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