After a three year hiatus, in which Sleigh Bells became owners of their own record label, Torn Clean, they have released their 4th LP and label debut Jessica Rabbit. Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller collaborated with renowned hip-hop producer Mike Elizondo, a name associated with the likes of Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent. The attempt to come back from the less than fabulous Bitter Rivals is noteworthy and bringing in Elizondo is definitely a pleasant surprise. The Bells find themselves working hard on change, but not quite accomplishing the feat and the end result comes across as a work-in-progress.
Experimentation is what gives Jessica Rabbit its biggest highs, yet it’s also the culprit on the album’s low points. The concept of “less is more” could have been applied to tracks “Baptism By Fire” and “I Can Only Stare”. These seem foreign to Sleigh Bells’ sound, resembling more closely America’s Top 40 than being worthy heirs to tracks from Bells’ prior albums Treats and Reign of Terror. The album would have benefited from these tracks never seeing the light of day.
There is something to be said for Sleigh Bells fearless nature, and they have never shied away from taking on new and exciting sounds. No Sleigh Bells album can be considered boring or awful. Jessica Rabbit does contain several high points, most notably Alexis Krauss’ voice shining through amongst the heavy guitar riffs that the duo is known for. Krauss’ vocal talent is best displayed on tracks “It’s Just Us Now”, “Throw Me Down the Stairs” and “Rule Number One”. The crowning jewels of the album are singles “Lightning Turns a Sawdust Gold” and “I Can’t Stand You Anymore”. On these we see a higher usage of synth and electronic elements alongside the prowess of Krauss’ pipes a la cult favorite contemporaries such as CHVRCHES and The Naked and Famous.
Jessica Rabbit is by no means a bad album. In fact, it seems like a step in the right direction and an indicator of more exciting things to come for Sleigh Bells under Torn Clean. Alexis Krauss has always been the face of Sleigh Bells and Rabbit has served as a vessel to accentuate that fact. That in itself is encouraging to Sleigh Bells’ fans, even if this album was a bit shy of a home run.