Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
The last time I spoke to Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller from Sleigh Bells it was for a fashion story. Before the interview, to help me understand the aesthetic of their new album, Reign of Terror, they sent me a photo of a naked woman spread eagle with a skull between her legs.
“I’d say it’s akin to the sound naked, sweaty bodies make when they smack together during sex.”
Needless to say, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect as I headed uptown on a recent late winter evening to see the band play their first post-release NYC show at Terminal 5 but I hoped it would be that raunchy. It was.
It would be wrong to write that Krauss has the nicest ass in rock if it weren’t kind of the centerpiece of the band’s new sensibility. Krauss’ stage uniform of splatter painted daisy dukes paired with fishnets, white Keds and ripped up rock t-shirts, tells you everything you need to know about Sleigh Bells; they are all about glorifying the sleazy underworld of teenage American life. I am all about joining them in this pursuit.
“New York, who wants to dance with me?!!!” Krauss screamed, as Miller — in a jean jacket and Samba sneakers combo that made me instinctually blush it was so crush-worthy high school soccer captain — sawed away menacingly on his camouflage guitar. You know those scenes in Pump Up the Volume where all the kids gather out on the desert mesa, sit on the hoods of their pickups drinking shitty beer and pumping their fists into the blank night air backlit by monster truck headlights? That’s what the band’s stage set-up looks like: a wall of Marshall amps with giant spotlights and Miller, Krauss and their other guitarist leading the mayhem. If my parents asked me to summarize the intricate patchwork sound that’s Sleigh Bells’ signature I’d say they almost sample themselves, building tiny little snippets of sound and then interweaving them to make whole tracks. But if a boy I liked asked me, I’d say it’s akin to the sound naked, sweaty bodies make when they smack together during sex. I think the majority of the hyper hormonal, glistening, groping crowd at this show would also go with door number two.The band took us through “Infinity Guitars,” then “Comeback Kid,” off the new record, and by the time we got to “Crown On the Ground” I found myself self-consciously touching my ears to make sure they weren’t bleeding and half wondering if the cops were going to show and break up this naughty high school party.
They didn’t. As we all poured out the exits and began the epic post T-5-show battle for taxis out of that Hell’s Kitchen wasteland, I saw a stream of mini Alexises in flower print bras and net tank tops, gobs of what looks like black oil paint smeared around their eyes and boys wearing Miller-inspired Wayfarers and Levi’s jackets, collars up. “You have to give a part of yourself away,” Miller told me before the album came out. “We really didn’t give much of ourselves away before but now there’s a lot more of us out there. Some people will hate it, some will laugh in your face, and some with love it.” I dare anyone to laugh at this band. They risk staying virgins for life or getting the shit kicked out of them behind the portables at recess by Sleigh Bells’ increasingly large army of super-hot mall-punk misfits.