The world is Sleigh Bells’ pep rally, and the Brooklyn-based duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller had a lot of fun blasting the gym bleachers with 2010 debut Treats. Looking like Breakfast Club walk-ons in their Ray-Bans and varsity jackets, Miller and Krauss deployed a series of small explosions that threw off shrapnel from such divergent source material as DMX’s “Gonna Make Me Lose My Mind,” the Fucking Champs, Funkadelic and white-girl R&B that’s more Belinda Carlisle than Debbie Harry. Loud, unsubtle, crowd-pleasing songs were launched from Treats as if from a hot-dog gun at the ballpark.
It’s fitting, then, that the follow-up begins with the roar of an audience and some foot-stomping and hand-clapping: Sleigh Bells’ spirited playfulness is alive on Reign Of Terror, but it’s subject to the kind of forethought, pacing and balance that’s normal to albums constructed for continuous listening. This means that in between the call-and-response fight song “Crush” and the manic whammy-bar bends of “Leader of the Pack” (which begins with the sound of a gunshot) is the ballad “End of the Line” – maybe not so much to provide caesura as to soothe the nerves. And in case you were waiting around for Sleigh Bells to do something macabre, “You Lost Me” is a typically over-the-top – and intriguing – stab. While Def Leppard-like arpeggiated guitars and divebombing keyboard tones telegraph the downcast mood, Krauss sings about something terrible that’s happened behind the Circle K: “Face down in the dirt, in a miniskirt…What a way to die.” The freaks, geeks and goths in rock ‘n’ roll high school used to be able to dismiss the cheerleaders in Sleigh Bells as being vapid and purely out for fun, but there’s no denying them now.