No, I mean it.
First, look at this video I shot of SB performing “Demons” at the 9:30 Club in D.C. on Tuesday night.* If you’ve ever seen a rock music performance in D.C., you will immediately notice what’s exceptional here: a packed club full of kids dancing. D.C. audiences notoriously do not believe in allowing music to influence their physical movements. But the power of Sleigh Bells compels them.
A Sleigh Bells show, unique among rock shows, is a cardiovascular event. If Alexis ever gives up music, I hope she’ll consider becoming my personal trainer. A natural frontwoman, she possesses the enviable physical acumen to sing — well — while constantly moving. Rock singers do not do this very often, to the point where some deride the entire idea of “performance” as an artifice to be derided.
Which leads to the crucial point about Sleigh Bells. Every single one of their songs is simultaneously rock and not-rock. Twelve giant Marshall stacks in a phalanx powers their live show, propelled by Derek Miller and touring guitarist Jason Boyer. It doesn’t get more rock than that. Yet there’s no drummer, there’s programmed beats, and Alexis’ vocal delivery is very consciously influenced by hip hop and R&B.
I submit that this gives Sleigh Bells the belt. Since Sleater-Kinney broke up, there hasn’t been a plausible contender for Only Band That Matters. Between 2005 and the Sleigh Bells demo, only rappers qualified. But Sleigh Bells, uniquely among bands today, pushes the boundaries of what rock can be — like SK did, like Radiohead did, like Nirvana did, like the Clash did. The only tool that Sleigh Bells is missing is lyrics. I like the idea of sloganeering as lyric-writing, and “Infinity Guitars” hinted at it (PiL pioneered it on Metal Box; Radiohead advanced it on OK Computer), but they’re not there yet, and Reign of Terror‘s lyric content is a move away. When Sleigh Bells mature as lyricists, they’ll be indisputable. Right now, they merely have no competition.
* Really: Thanks to Jamie from Thrill Jockey for getting my wife & I into the show. I encourage you to purchase records from the Thrill Jockey catalogue. May I recommend starting with Millions Now Living Will Never Die or Futureworld?