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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012

Sleigh Bells w/ AraabMuzik @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Oct. 24, 2012

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The quickest way for an indie-rock band to earn the guillotine is appearing manufactured. Authenticity plays an important role on whether people buy what you're selling. One can argue whether Lana Del Rey's downfall earlier this year was inevitable because the narrative surrounding her backstory wasn't centered on how she became the "gangster Nancy Sinatra," but focused on how she was repackaged by a PR agency as a cool, laconic pop star after a failed stint as an earnest singer/songwriter. (It didn't help that her songs weren't actually any good, either).

The Brooklyn-based trio Sleigh Bells has mostly sidestepped those claims of insincerity. However, once-child-pop-singer Alexis Krauss and former Poison the Well guitarist Derek E. Miller, aligned the band to sell a simple concept onstage: clamorous rebellion. And sell that they did. The duo's 2010 debut, Treats, sounded like a fistful of pent-up rage finally being allowed to vent out. This year's follow-up, Reign of Terror, found Sleigh Bells taking their aggressiveness to even higher extremes. Wednesday night at the Turner Hall Ballroom the band, joined by a second guitarist, ripped through an encore-less, hour-long set of their punishingly booming metal-pop that confirmed what Sleigh Bells is all about.

Genuine or not, Sleigh Bells attempts to realize that raucous persona through their looks. We're supposed to believe Krauss is a rebel from her leather jacket, leopard-print hot pants and her Parental Advisory T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. And we're to think the band is loud based on the red lights beaming on the six stacks of Marshall amps. It certainly helps that Sleigh Bells can deliver those characteristics sonically, as well. Openers “Demons” and “Crown on the Ground” had the same force as a punch firmly landed on the nose.

For sounding so overblown by design, the gentler moments were harder to come across. Most notably, the soothing, head-in-the-sky "End of the Line" suffered from an obnoxiously loud mix of the bass. Following, though, was a simpler rendition of the beginning of "Born to Lose," played on a single guitar which successfully underplayed the massive attack that commenced halfway through. These were the only two times the band took it down a notch all night.

Krauss endearingly pulled women up to dance with her to the closer “A/B Machines.” The show might be a put-on, but it could’ve have masked the fact that it was fun. At least for Wednesday night, Sleigh Bells proved to be Andrew W.K., not Lana Del Rey.

Live DJ sets continually face the criticism that the performer doesn’t engage with the samples enough to be compelling onstage. That wasn’t the case with opener AraabMuzik, who scarcely glanced up from his MPC samplers the entire night. Crafting drum beats with the devices, the Rhode Island emcee mixed an unrelenting set of hip-hop, dance and dubstep. By the end of the night, the water bottle he brought on stage remained three-fourths full because he barely had the time to take a sip.