Novelty-rock acts rarely catch a second wave of hype, which means Sleigh Bells are officially eating into our precious time on this Earth. The Brooklyn duo’s sophomore album, “Reign of Terror,” out Tuesday, is as loud and insipid as a “Transformers” movie sequel.
The twosome first came ripping through our earbuds in 2010 with “Treats,” a debut that won fans with its pretty-please-pay-attention-to-me sound. It was cute, even if the band’s formula felt like it was born in a focus group: serrated guitars that mimicked ’80s metal, plus drum machines that evoked Southern hip-hop, plus vocals that emulated playground chants, equaled getting your song played in an episode of “Gossip Girl.”
With “Reign of Terror,” that formula takes on the qualities of a straitjacket. Guitarist Derek Miller’s hair-metal nostalgia trip becomes a journey into the void, while singer Alexis Krauss alternates between drowsy cooing and monotone cheerleader chanting. There’s no innovation, no adventure, no blood, no sweat, no tears of desperation — just a self-satisfied cleverness and a weak sense of style.
And the ultimate crime? It doesn’t even sound like they’re having fun.
“True Shred Guitar” opens the album with its vital signs already fading. “Push it, push it!” Krauss shouts. “True shred guitar!” Miller supplies exactly that on each of the album’s 11 tracks. We could try and discuss the other 10, but doing so would require the brain cells that were killed while listening to them.
So why are we still jabbering on about this painfully gimmicky rock-and-roll pantomime? Because, while compelling music forces us to listen closely, clever music encourages us to talk endlessly. That’s why the indie-rock blogosphere is humming. That’s why Spin put the band on the cover of its next issue. That’s why “Saturday Night Live” invited the duo to give a stiff performance over the weekend — the latest in a series of bookings that appears to value Monday-morning conversation more than quality performances.
Let’s change the channel. If lousy music is fueled only by our social-media chatter, the sooner we stop paying attention to bands like this, the sooner the art is forced to change shape — or simply evaporate into history.
Which means this review should have ended seven paragraphs ago. Apologies.