It’s hard to set expectations for anyone reading this wondering if this new album from Sleigh Bells will be for them. In many ways, this is a band who have never really changed their style after breakthrough Treats back in 2010, but in other ways they’ve never quite managed to capture that same blend of noise and pop in a blast of an album.
In many ways Texis feels like one of their most obviously chaotic records yet. ‘An Acre Lost’ is exhausting. Opener ‘SWEET75’ is a lot to wrap your head around. It hardly sounds like the same band on these tracks. The usual guitars turned up to 12 are back, but time with drum machines so loud I can’t understand how they found that setting. There has been a steady decline in the band’s musical output since 2015’s Bitter Rivals, and Texis definitely shares more DNA with previous album Jessica Rabbit than anything else in their discography. The hooks are so hooky and melodies so complex that it gets completely lost against the noise.
That said, we then get to some of the most ‘song’ like moments on the record, ‘Locust Laced’, ‘Justine Go Genesis’ and ‘True Seekers’ manage to actually sound like a duo playing together. Here Alexis’ poppy vocals gel really well with the more melodic guitar moments, rather than completely contradict them. There’s this really difficult to grasp contradiction in everything the band does, where the contrast is the entire point, but it can often feel way too dissonant for a listener to grasp. I’ve been a really big fan of Sleigh Bells for many years, so if I’m struggling to ‘get’ some of the appeal of songs like ‘Red Flag Flies’ then god knows what a newcomer is going to think.
And here’s where I completely contradict myself and say there isn’t enough bonkers moments. There’s no ‘A/B Machines’ here, or even any ‘Born To Lose’ with truly raucous energy. Surely I can’t be saying the album is too much and too little at the same time? Well I am and it makes about as much sense as most of the appeal of Sleigh Bells does. This is a band that is an almighty racket and yet sounds at their best when it does.
Making the most direct comparison to the last album Texis is a way brighter experience than Jessica Rabbit was for a listener. Closer ‘Hummingbird Bomb’ is arguably the first time I’d be able to describe the band as ‘funky’ and it definitely sound like Alexis and Derek are having a lot of fun. About half of the time I was too, so that’s positive right? As an album it didn’t quite hit immediately for me either, but has started to lodge itself in my head in a good way, perhaps it’ll take seeing some of these songs live to fully click. Not quite a return to form, more a realignment back towards the heights of ‘Comeback Kid’ and ‘Bitter Rivals’ for me.
Words by Sam Atkins.