11 November 2016
Jessica Rabbit is only three years old, but it seems older for several reasons. For a while I was a rabid Sleigh Bells fan but by the time 2016 rolled around my tastes had shifted. While I still bought the album on its release date, I gave it only a cursory listen or two and promptly shelved it. It never really got its due.
So revisiting it today, it’s still a pretty fresh listen. Apart from the act’s sound, nothing on this record is immediately familiar. The album was released on the band’s own Torn Clean label, which is also the name of an 82-second interlude on this disc, one that’s notably mellower than most of their output.
And overall, that phrase – mellower than most of their output – seems apropos for most of this release. The vocals and guitars aren’t nearly as aggressive and abrasive early on as on prior efforts. Some cuts (see “I Can’t Stand You Anymore”) sound like *gasp* pop singles with Alexis Kraus’s screams tamed to carefully enunciated lyrics and Derek Miller’s guitars only getting chunky and distorted during a brief bridge.
I still like it. There is enough of the old Sleigh Bell’s attitude to feel comfortable and I’m not generally averse to favorite bands moving in new directions. Bowie famously said something about how it would be ridiculous to still be performing “Rebel, Rebel” at 50. What’s appropriate for someone in their 20s might seem downright silly given the passage of a decade or two. So while I’ll always love the distraught energy of the first two Sleigh Bells records, it only makes sense that they’d grow over their career, maybe smooth out some of the rough edges.
That being said, David Bowie was still performing “Rebel Rebel” at the age of 56 on what turned out to be his final large scale tour in ‘03. And Sleigh Bells occasionally look in the rearview mirror (see “Throw Me Down The Stairs”) long enough to tear shit loose with a classic loud-quiet-loud approach that rattles eardrums.
It may seem odd to find this sort of sonic steel wool soothing and relaxing, but it is. It’s as though Sleigh Bells takes all of the anger and chaos and aggression in the world and channels it into their songs so that the world can let it all go. I mean, they’re no Wyld Stallyns, but when I’m listening to them, none of the little troubles in my life seem that important. And that’s a hell of a thing for any music to be able to accomplish.
Hearing this album again today after three years, I’m thinking that I definitely shelved it too early. Time to work it into the regular rotation.