The kings of genre adultery and sound assassinations Sleigh Bells are back after four years with new combinations of non-combinable melodies. They repeat their chaos formula and it sounds completely different again. The guarantee remains – even by listening to the new “Texis” you will discover a surprising harmony in disharmonies.
“I’ve been drunk most of the time for eighteen years, or I’ve had a hangover,” admitted in an interview with Songwriters On Process the central author Sleigh Bells, who was already abstinent at the time, Derek Miller. A similar statement does not surprise the artist. On the other hand, it is admirable that despite all this he worked all the time as an uncompromising professional and as a progressive composer he pulled out his project with his colleague Alexis Krauss incredibly. And that the bar was set damn high with the debut “Treats”.
The follower of “Reign Of Terror” was safely known from the music itself that Miller was in trouble. While the album could be listed as the most depressing act of all time, others have struggled to see how far genre fragmentation can go. Findings: there are no boundaries. In suffering or in the genre range. The new “Texis” matured longer due to the covid than the band originally planned. The pandemic caught her at the same time she arrived at the studio for the final mix, so she decided to postpone the whole process and release. Although the release date in the middle of the world’s lockdowns would be more pleasant for fans, who used to be able to shorten long moments in social isolation, more time and distance from already composed songs, according to the duo, had a positive effect on the final recording. “Texis” is another sound giant in the group’s discography, which follows its own axis and, as usual, makes not only the critics clinging to clearly defined boxes, but also the oppressive listeners. And it fascinates those who like it very loud and very intensely, with local anesthesia in the form of ballads and sugar popcorn.
While the latest mini-album “Kid Kruschev” left the audience in a half-calm state and gave him a short breath before another onslaught of strong emotions and passions, the energy-pumped opener “SWEET75” the band returns to the stage in a grand style, at the cost of a few deaf listeners it kind of counts for this shredpop two. “Here we go! Here we go! You’re legitimate rock and roll!” Alexis Krauss hits the cannonade of drums and aggressive guitars. Better than a kicker in powder form. Question at the end of the song: “Aren’t you a little old for rock and roll?” in the case of Sleigh Bells, it is only rhetorical. The group may have been active for thirteen years, but it is definitely not possible to say that it has already said everything important and is running out of ideas, on the contrary. With each new record, he digs his style and demonstrates hitherto unseen corners of his inexhaustible creative potential. On “Texis” (which, by the way, is not a distortion of the American state, but an anagram for Exits), the truth is a bit more complete than in previous acts, which, however, still means a load of unpredictable plots, sound WTF moments and blasphemous genres.
The last mentioned attribute is most perfectly found on “Justine Go Genesis”, where the predation of riot grrls supported by metal riffs is played with a fast drum and bass tempo and chewing pop. And again, there is such a characteristic split for Sleigh Bells – self-confident slogans (in this case, for example, the Beatles and Nirvana) complement the defeatist: “I ain’t got shit”.
“And I know you think I won’t amount to shit,” Krauss also sings in “True Seeekers”. With its 80’s feel, sinking keys and chopping strings, the song would stand out in the “Stranger Things” soundtrack. (And acoustically reminiscent of the excellent cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”.) She is enlightened with hope, but at the same time afraid to cross her own shadow and find her way out of the grave. Sleigh Bells were lured to the new record by saying they wanted to pass it on to people “joyful energy and self-confidence”. But all this is still redeemed in their texts by depression, thoughts of leaving life, feelings of loneliness and despair. “I’m Not Down” seems to have been written right in the middle of world isolation and the associated uncertainty and sadness, even though it arose before the entire covid madness. “I want to be alone for a while, buried alive in a quiet town,” Krauss prophesies future days. “We have to take care of ourselves,” recalls a trivial but constantly current lesson in the same song.
Passages imbued with the humility of life alternate with erect mediators. The thrilling “Tennessee Tips” is a mockery of his own mortality, and in it Miller returns to one of the many past nights during which he danced with the Devil (read: addictive substances), in “Red Flag Flies” the musicians play harmoniously with the hellish triton and to God they return again in “Rosary”. Fury at the heart crowns “Locust Laced” with its cascade of sharpened guitars. “I feel like dynamite. I feel like I’m going to die tonight,” is a concise summary of the philosophy of Sleigh Bells and their disturbing ambivalence – euphoria on the outside, depression on the inside. “Locust Laced” sounds like the motif of a boisterous party, where you spark like sparklers and then you just count the losses after the explosion. Because the cursed fate cannot be escaped. And you can do your best to break through the wall (which is exceptionally not a metaphor, but an allusion to the clip of the same name, play it). The biggest flight, “Hummingbird Bomb”, the band kept at the end. What at first sounds like a singing rehearsal in clinking bells turns into a metal riot in which the band lyrically returns to the title exit; the idea of escape, in this case a literal departure from life. The real highlight comes with a bridge in which the song moves melodically to other parts and Krauss apologizes to everyone against the background of soaring keyboard tones. With the increasing intensity of her expression, it is again revealed what beauty can be in sorrow and that even gloomy ends can carry hope and liberation.
The track is given from the point of view of an imaginary hummingbird, which is about to kill a lot of people with a bomb on its body. Of course, everyone can interpret it in their own way. And so, for example, we get a sincere and sensitive apology from the creators of the album, who apologize to their listeners. For all that blasphemy. Flirting with death. Self-destruction. A pain they didn’t look at. However, the result is “Texis”, so be forgiven.