Saturday Night Live: Sleigh Bells 2/18/12

Back again like a moth to a flame, I had to take a peak at what Saturday Night Live’s musical guest was up to this week. They certainly throw themselves in every which direction. We went from lethargic pop-star-in-waiting, Lana del Rey, to the above-any-criticism progressive folk act, Bon Iver, to the excruciating YouTube-wannabe-hipster Karmin last week. Now the pendulum has swung yet another direction with noise pop sensation, Sleigh Bells. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to see how a band that lives on their volume would fair on the underwhelming soundstage at 30 Rock, but here we go!

 

“Comeback Kid”

Sleigh Bells is clearly doing what they can to exercise the demons that haunted so many other rock outfits in the past. The set, which usually is made to appear like some sort of train station, has been almost entirely stripped away in lieu of a Berlin Wall’s worth of speakers. As is the case with every SNL musical guest ever, they had to make the choice to either drown out their vocals with their instrumentals or vice versa. Sacrificing the vocals for guitar shredding seemed like a no brainer for these guys. Alexis Krauss does what she can on this somewhat faster-paced number at the top of her vocal range. While she is slightly flat and at moments clearly trying to find her breath, she plays her role (provide words while the guitars thrash away) very well. The guitars do their best to rock out. They seem to play well but can only get so loud on the soundstage. Give them credit for trying.

 

“End of the Line”

They went with an interesting choice for their encore. I will save my decision on Reign of Terror (their second LP which hit stores yesterday) for a full-fledged review (hopefully by tomorrow), but I would not have pegged this as a track they had circled for a live performance. For one, it is a song that relies almost entirely on the consistently pounding drumbeat in the background and, as you can see in the video, they don’t even have a drummer with them. Also, the song’s vocals are stylized with a lot of echoing and an overlapping choir sound. I certainly tip my hat to Krauss for pulling it off as well as she did since the track basically requires her to sing the part of three or four people. I am aware that they are all her voice but if you know a way for her to pull this effect off live then I would like to hear it. I must admit, that it forced her to rush at times and took a little away from the album version of the song. Even if it does seem catchy, I don’t find it to be a fair representative of how fucking awesome this band can be. Kudos for trying on SNL, but I’ll take the album (slight giveaway of which direction my review is going in).

 

The show is taking next week off before returning March 3 with none other than Jack White as the musical guest. That should really be a sight to see. White, in my opinion, is one of the few guitarists around today that carries on the tradition of guitar gods. Well, maybe he’s Satan, but I’m definitely tuning in for that.

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