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Sleigh Bells putting the M back into MTV

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If you have seen a movie, watched television, read a magazine, or been under the age of 50 in the past three months, you have probably heard of “Skins”. Based on the controversial British show of the same name, “Skins” is MTV’s latest attempt to distance themselves from reality television and gain some credibility in the world of scripted programs.

The show premiered Jan. 17 to reviews that could be generously called mixed and ungenerously called vicious slaughterings. Strangely, the show’s harshest critics were the average viewers. Fans of the original show flocked to their various social networking sites of choice and declared the show nowhere near as good as the British original, which statistically speaking is the second most popular phrase in hipster circles — right after “I liked their earlier stuff before they went mainstream.”

Add in the increasing controversy about the show’s explicit use of teen actors, and one would not be completely at fault to say that “Skins” is a failure.

However, one gleaming pearl has emerged from this disaster: Sleigh Bells. And no, not the popular Christmas accessory.

Sleigh Bells’ only album, “Treats” encapsulates the sound that is the only good thing about MTV's “Skins.” Photo via Mom + Pop / N.E.E.T.

Many of those who tuned into the pilot were probably intrigued by the commercial, which regularly played on television and in pre-movie trailers. The commercial essentially plays like a music video for Sleigh Bells’ song “Kids,” which, looking back, now made brilliant advertising logic: Sell a pedestrian television show under the guise of an awesome band.

And what an awesome band it is.

The best way to describe Sleigh Bells’ sound is by referencing those recent Sour Patch Kids commercials. It’s a brilliant combination of sour distorted beats and guitars with sweet ear-massaging vocals. Sadly, Sleigh Bells currently only has one full album out, but that one album contains more auditory gold than just about everything on top 40 radio.

Take, for instance, the previously mentioned “Kids;” it’s an almost perfect mash-up of different musical and technical techniques. The sliding guitar notes sound slick and flashy, but it’s mixed with a distorted beat that literally sounds like a crowd of stamping, clapping fans. On paper, this concoction of lo-fi edginess and mainstream gloss should make your ears scream for mercy. Instead, they scream for more.

Luckily, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, the duo behind Sleigh Bells, have no interest in messing with a formula that works so well. Most albums include certain song types that bands feel they need to have, such as the dreaded love ballad. “Treats,” the band’s lone album, is different; it wants your head bobbing from the first song all the way to the last song without stopping.

With these descriptions, you may be thinking the music isn’t particularly sophisticated. And you would be right. Every now and then, Sleigh Bells will toss in an interesting guitar harmony, like in the opener “Tell ’Em,” or a light ’70s homage in the form of “Rill Rill,” but that’s a rarity. For the most part, “Treats” is just fierce guitars, pulse-pounding beats, and the inherent human desire to stamp our feet and make some noise.

So who do I have to thank for this glorious discovery? I guess MTV, which finally decided they wanted to earn back the M in their acronym. Without their ad for “Skins,” Sleigh Bells would probably still be adrift in a musical sea of indie rock bands trying to get their big break.

True, their advertisement’s main goal, my viewership of “Skins,” wasn’t accomplished, but it still got me to spend money and enjoy a related product.

It’s like seeing a Snuggie commercial, but wanting to buy the bonus book light. Either way, I’m a happy customer.

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