Sleigh Bells/CSS at First Avenue, 5/19/11

Hearing about what a band is like is never as good as seeing them live. The rest of this review could be filled with what CSS sounds like, looks like, etc. (and, of course, some of this review will be)...and it won't do justice to what the live show was like. Brazil's CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy--"got tired of being sexy" in Portuguese) are like an unholy mix of The Knife, Kinky and every cool punk rock record you've ever heard.


They arrived onstage unassumingly, with for lead singer Lovefoxxx and drummer Adriano Cintra caked in Dia de los Muertos makeup, though they and the rest of the band did everything but play dead. Lovefoxxx--who did a slow, PG-13ish striptease as the set progressed--ran around stage throughout the set, diving into the crowd on several occasions and singing to the people smushed up front against the metal barrier.

The music -- an electrifying miasma of synths, guitars, pounding bass and, at one point, naturally, a keytar -- instantly made the crowd shake and dance, throwing their sweaty limbs in the air like a giant rugby scrum. The hour-long set unfolded slowly, despite the fever pitch of the songs, and ended as bizarrely as it began with Lovefoxxx donning a heinous-looking bridesmaid's dress, which slowly fell off of her over the course of the last two songs, only to be pitched in the corner, like any proper bridesmaid would. The set ended with a blast of crushing bass, guitar squall and Lovefoxxx diving into the crowd only to return a little worse for wear, shirt askew and fishnets ripped to shreds. It was an impressive lead-in to Sleigh Bells if there ever was one.

Opening with a mix of distorted old-school metal on the P.A., Sleigh Bells seemed to be overreaching a bit in terms of volume and sonic similarity, but as it turned out they were only challenging themselves to be louder, faster, louder, more punishing, more louder. And louder.

They opened with the hurricane of "Crown on the Ground," and from there the set was an all-out attack. Singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek E. Miller (with help from a drum machine) occupy a rare space where cacophony and bubblegum pop meet and it is quite the enjoyable breath to take. The lyrics consist of many "ooh"s and "ahh"s, but somehow it's still some kind of genius. These songs don't need any more, or any less. As they careened though "Riot Rhythm," two members of CSS, who had been watching from the side of the stage, dove into the crowd and surfed it for a good three minutes or more.

Sleigh Bells also debuted a new song, "Holly," which indicated the next album will be more acid-in-the-face-melt, turned up just a notch. The bass turned throat-closingly harsh during "Rill Rill," concluding with an all-out dance party as the entirety of CSS joined them onstage. The 40-minute set was far too short, and many seemed surprised that it had ended so quickly. They were right to be. Granted Sleigh Bells only have about 55 minutes of recorded material under their belts, but while the show was pretty enjoyable there were some pieces missing at the end. Regardless, Sleigh Bells chose to call the puzzle complete. It was fun to watch, but not nearly enough fun was had.

Critic's Bias: The noises that Derek E. Miller strangles out of his guitar make me want to pick my guitar up again, solely to see if I can do that.
The Crowd: Straight out of an American Apparel catalog.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Wait, this is an all ages show, right? Or have I just aged so much in the last week that nobody wants to look at my ID anymore?"
Random Notebook Dump: Sleigh Bells seems designed to bring a crowd to a boil and nothing more--so awesome.