Broken Bells vs. Sleigh Bells

Taking sides at Deck the Hall Ball.

This year, 107.7 The End's annual Deck the Hall Ball has lined up a fine roster of performers—rock-and-roll heavies the Black Keys and Temper Trap; throwbacks from the early aughts Cake and Jimmy Eat World; and two dissimilar-sounding bands with similar names, super-duo Broken Bells and Brooklyn noise-pop twosome Sleigh Bells. Broken Bells is the event's official headliner, but put side by side, which Bells really come out on top? Here, the Bells throw down in six categories, competing for a possible 10 points per category.

THOSE 2010 DEBUTS

Broken Bells: The self-titled collaboration between the Shins' James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley producer Danger Mouse proved to be much less exciting than expected, with most of it loping along at a mid-tempo, unchanging pace. Snooze. 4 points.

Sleigh Bells: Treats forcefully blended hardcore sound barriers, a breezy pop spirit, and a bit of hip-hop swagger, making for an explosively cutting-edge debut. 10 points.

PERSONALITY

BB: Mercer isn't exactly known as a classic nice guy, especially after he fired two longtime Shins, drummer Jesse Sandoval and keyboardist Marty Crandall, in 2009. Sandoval—who now operates a Mexican food truck in Portland—told the Portland Mercury that his departure was forced, saying, "I unequivocally got fired. And it kind of confuses me why [Mercer] has a hard time saying that." Mercer vaguely explains that "it was an aesthetic decision." 2 points.

SB: These guys are known to be sweet to their fans, and they haven't fired each other . . . yet. 8 points.

STYLE FILE

BB: Mercer and Danger Mouse usually appear in typical button-up shirts, plaid slacks, or suits—boring. 4 points.

SB: Alexis Krauss appears on stage in tight spangled leggings, mesh tops, black Wayfarers, and lots of neon. Sleigh Bells runs away with this category thanks to her eye-catching gear. 8 points.

VIP FANS

BB: MTV got on board with the celebrity duo right away, nominating them as Best New Artist at the 2010 Video Music Awards. 7 points.

SB: The two unknowns have reached an unexpected level of cool cachet thanks to their buzzworthy sound. The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones called them his favorite New York band; M.I.A. loved them so much she signed them to her own label, N.E.E.T. Recordings; and Spike Jonze and Krist Novoselic are fans, as is Joe Jonas, who recently tweeted of them, "they be rocking it." 10 points.

IF IT CAME TO FISTICUFFS

BB: Danger Mouse would be too busy with his million other projects to get involved; he'd leave Mercer hanging. Mercer is a ex–military brat, so he must be a little tough, but he also might pull a bitch move and slap someone. 5 points.

SB: Krauss was once in a teen pop group and on Nickelodeon—not much street cred. But she also was once an elementary-school teacher, which had to make her into one tough cookie. She also carries a baseball bat in Sleigh Bells' video for "Infinity Guitars," and has Miller, who has an extensive hardcore background, at her side. That's some tough shit. Gotta give this one to Sleigh Bells. 7 points.

THE VERDICT: Sleigh Bells rings in a definitive victory with 43 points, while Team Mercer/Mouse lags with 22. Those Broken Bells might need some fixing.

ethompson@seattleweekly.com

 
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