Best Coast – ‘Fade Away’ and Sleigh Bells – ‘Bitter Rivals’
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the one trick pony show. On the one hand, we have the cutesy, pseudo-punk of California’s Best Coast, and on the other the hip hop infused guitar shredding of New York’s Sleigh Bells. Both have now produced three albums, and in all honesty, the sheen is wearing off. At one point, these two were among the brightest newcomers in the game, riding the wave of the class of 2010 with the likes of the Drums, Wavves, Fang Island, First Aid Kit and Local Natives. In fairness, Best Coast and Sleigh Bells have a leg up on Wavves and Local Natives as far as the quantity of product they have released. It’s possible that when the latter two release their third full lengths, the appeal will have worn off as well, but they are not the ones on trial here.
I can’t say that I have never enjoyed Sleigh Bells, or that I don’t still dig their debut “Treats” or bits and pieces of their sophomore album, “Reign of Terror.” The Brooklyn duo developed a niche with their combination of heavy guitar edges, dance hooks, and Alexis Krauss’ seductive vocals. However, with the release of third long player, “Bitter Rivals,” what was effervescent on “Treats” and still interesting on “Reign of Terror” is now decidedly becoming old hat. The album opens with the lyrics, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I had to kill the new sheriff in town,” which are performed in a rappish-spoken style. After banging my head on my desk for a solid five minutes, I lit a candle to the ghost of Charles Dickens to absolve my guilt. I only listened to the album once, and while there are catchy portions, it’s 30 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.
Best Coast are a different kind of monster altogether. The L.A. duo’s music is breezy, catchy, and generally pretty easy to vibe with. However, when I listen to their catalog, including new mini-album “Fade Away,” all I can think is that they have written one really long song and just continue stretching it out across albums. Coming up just two minutes shorter than Sleigh Bells’ effort, “Fade Away” didn’t make me feel nearly as guilty for listening, as it is still smart pop music. My problem isn’t the content as much as the direction. There isn’t one. The music isn’t going anywhere, and that’s okay for them, it will just make me tune out. I will still recommend Best Coast to anyone who wants a soundtrack to a Sunday drive.
If this review didn’t completely turn you off, “Bitter Rivals” is out now via Mom & Pop Records, and “Fade Away” is also out now via Jewel City Records.
Getting tired of “Thriller”? Here’s a playlist full of jams to get you into the twisted spirit this Halloween:
• Tom Waits – “Black Wings”
• Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer”
• The Decemberists – “The Rake’s Song”
• Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”
• Pearl Jam – “Bugs”
• Johnny Cash – “Sam Hall”
• Queens of the Stone Age – “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”
• White Zombie – “I’m Your Boogie Man”
• Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Red Right Hand”
• Phosphorescent – “At Death, A Proclamation”
• Misfits – “Astro Zombies”
• The Polyphonic Spree – “The Time Warp”
• Norma Jean – “Face:Face”
• Sufjan Stevens – “John Wayne Gacy Jr.”
• Hank Williams – “Lost Highway”
• Marilyn Manson – “I Put A Spell On You”
• The Ventures – “Fear”
• Bloc Party – “Hunting for Witches”
• The Smashing Pumpkins – “We Only Come Out at Night”
• Black Sabbath – “War Pigs”
• Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
No one gets tired of “Thriller.” Deal with it.