Divided we stand
A few great albums that suffered online slings and arrows
Published: January 13, 2011
Music is appreciated by feeling and emotion, not necessarily by the brain, so it’s a notoriously difficult thing to explain when you don’t like it. Thus, the quality of dissent is usually little more than “because they suck,” which is something that fits Sleigh Bells’ Treats to a T. The Brooklyn-based duo, whose shouted lyrics and big, booming drums play like a pep rally from hell, is a perfect melding of songwriter Derek Miller’s hardcore roots from Poison the Well, and singer Alexis Krauss’ teenage girl-band roots. As such, they bowled over many critics and blew out just as many eardrums this year – even spawning the inevitable Jay-Z mash up, appropriately titled Jay Bells.
After their demo began to spread through music forums and blogs in 2009, they played CMJ and opened for Yeasayer, becoming one of the new ubiquitous “hype” bands before their album was officially released. The arrival of “Infinity Guitars,” with its fire-and-explosions video that was an almost perfect array of absurd clichés – the cheerleaders, the catholic school uniform and unaffected faces hidden behind sunglasses – announced them as a genuine force. But not everyone bought into it.
“This is hands down the absolute worst music I’ve heard in years. I am amazed that people are listening to this and enjoying it,” and “this album is absolutely predictable and a complete flash in the pan [but] the kids will come out in droves for this garbage” were common amongst the dissent posts. “I liked these guys better when they were called the Go! Team,” was less common, but delivered the hate just as effectively. “People who hate this band are totally justified,” added a poster in the same thread who actually liked the band. “[T]his is some of the most obnoxious, ridiculous music I’ve ever heard.”
With lines like “Wonder what your boyfriend thinks of your braces? / What about them? I’m all about them” and “Wait, did I forget my sunglasses / No? Lala,” Sleigh Bells are unabashedly fun, good for dancing and not much else.
So where exactly does the line between “frivolous but fun” and “frivolous crap” lie? Is there even one left, or was it all but obliterated from the consciousness of all but the most ardent haters by Vampire Weekend two years ago? Is “Here we are now / Entertain us” that much different? Maybe the New York Dolls wiped out that divide 30 years ago. Or was it 40 years ago by the Guess Who?
Anyway, isn’t rock & roll supposed to be dumb and fun?
Which brings us to Weezer. There is always Weezer, the most simultaneously loved and despised band possibly ever. To be a Weezer fan over the age of 25 is to be a Weezer hater as well, and every thread about every new Weezer album seems to spiral out of control into rabid disappointment that the new album is nothing like Blue or Pinkerton. Had they only released Hurley in 2010, they might have fared well. It’s surely the best thing they’ve done since Green, or at least somewhat better than Maladroit.
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