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Concert review: Sleigh Bells

Published April 13, 2012 11:02 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Music as a force of nature, rather than mere accoutrement of the soul, is fast becoming the currency of American pop culture.

Or is that proposition hopelessly late to the party?

It's not news to heavy metal fans, who've been thrashing their own air guitars decades after Geezer Butler lunged bass notes for Black Sabbath.

Sleigh Bells, the Brooklyn duo of guitarist Derek Miller and singer Alexis Krauss, take this aesthetic light years into a world where recreational head-banging cannibalizes its own flesh for hitherto unexplored realms of volume-drenched bliss.

The band's Thursday night concert at The Depot is a case in point, where a respectable all-ages crowd answered Sleigh Bells' every thunderclap snare, seismic bass-beat and skull-crunching guitar riff with the sweaty pulp of true audience love.

"Hello Salt Lake City!" Krauss said as a hearty greeting one third of the way into the set. "It's been too long!"

The full artillery of Sleigh Bells' nine Marshall stacks and six strobe lights was made all the more mighty, in contrast, by the naive noodlings of opening band Javelin. With songs about playing video games all night, along with seemingly random tunes about love, the Brooklyn duo provided a necessary book-end for the massacre to come.

Then it was on to the main event, in which former grade-school teacher Krauss and partner Miller unleashed slab after smoking slab of their trademark noise pop, from "True Shred Guitar" to "Infinity Guitars" and beyond. It's almost impossible to resist hyperbole when it comes to a band like this. Suffice to say that Sleigh Bells turned The Depot into a sort of inverse fall-out shelter, where instead of clamoring for protection the occupants offer themselves as sacrifice to the the throbbing lava of a Mount Vesuvius set to the hell-bent metronome of an aural Apocalypse.

The relentless effect is made all the more fun by the way songs such as "Rill Rill" and "Comeback Kid" squeeze every last ounce of irony from the fact that Krauss' voice floats angelic above the din. Otherwise it's back to business as usual, with Krauss dancing in time to Miller's AC/DC-inspired fretwork with all the flair of Salome offering up the head of John the Baptist on a plate.

It's hard to think of another current band that makes rock 'n' roll so savage and, at the same time, sassy. When music burns this bright and intense, it can't last long. Ninety minutes and three songs worth of an encore later, even supernovas must cool their heels lest they burn out forever. Many an ear wept in painful joy, but it was obvious that the exiting crowd found the dulcet tones of a Cyndi Lauper soundtrack afterward a dose of blessed relief.—Ben Fulton