REVIEW: THE JEZABELS – THE BRINK (2014)
The Jezabels’ second full-length release, The Brink, is an invigorating shake-up: a welcoming jolt to whatever tiring routine, rut, feeling or season that has found its way of bleakly overstaying. With that said, there are few components to The Jezabels music that are glaringly happy, traditionally fun or by any means an ambassador to an easy and worry-free life. No, the Australian alternative/disco rock four-piece do not brighten the mood or revitalize the outlook in that way. Instead, they reign through the hopeful glimmers and linings: the optimistic maybes, the hints of a possibility, the belief that better days are just around the corner; a page turn or new beginning is never too far out of reach, if, that’s what you want.
The Jezabals debuted with a trio of independent EP releases, beginning with 2009’s The Man is Dead, followed later that year by She’s So Hard and 2010’s Dark Storm. The first track of The Man is Dead, “Disco Biscuit Love” set the table for what the world could expect from The Jezabels’ music: passionate, booming and entrancing with a slight, but important, dark streak. The tone can be upbeat, even fun, but other times, serious, dense and brooding. Frontwoman Hayley Mary powers each track with an unrestrained and distinctly beautiful command. The entire band, along with guitarist Samuel Lockwood, keyboardist Heather Shannon and Drummer Nik Kaloper, play incredibly tight together, beyond what you would expect from a group that formed in just 2007. They’ve already captured that magic of a creating a confident, seamless sound. It sparked on their full-length debut, 2011’s Prisoner, and even more so now on The Brink.
The title track begins The Brink with a relentless surge and a towering build. Instrumentally, it’s no holds barred, about as bustling and fierce as a four-piece can take a pop melody. It’s delightfully reminiscent of the band’s past cathartic bends, including She’s So Hard’s “A Little Piece” or Prisoner’s “Hurt Me.” Dance-trance anthem “Look of Love” and self-describing “Beat to Beat” carry much of that same magnetic intensity. The Jezabels will mix in dance, electronic, and even some R&B tints into their songs, but no matter what route they take, the musical energy is always boiling and the grand burst of excitement, frustration, sadness or pain never seems to be out of place.
“Got Velvet” plays off more balanced, but rings no less joyous. On the track, Mary sings, “But you were just like the government/ Lying all the time/ With a shattered piece of way back when/ Stuck forever in your mind.” Lyrically, that’s the type of edge the Jezabels incorporate. It’s by no means personal love letter excerpts, but it’s also not line after line of surreal layers and metaphors. It’s a unique but appropriate balance that pairs very well with the sonic scope featured in many of the band’s songs. With that, “Got Velvet” closes with one of the most rousing and excited moments on the album. You can’t help but move to it. That’s the happiness the Jezabels can unleash— nontraditional pop bliss.
“No Country” and “Psychotherapy” are more toned-down tracks on The Brink but in doing so they remain sincere to the deeper subject matter and also the band’s past ballad capabilities. Nevertheless, both tunes find a way of gracefully mounting to the full band’s climatic charge. The delicately layered “All You Need” triumphantly closes The Brink, an album that collectively feels as if it’s full of album closers.
The Jezabels are going to make it very tough for you to sort of like them. It’s a passionate, engulfing musical pull that you can’t dabble lightly in. The Brink is an absorbing sophomore album, more polished and encompassing than Prisoner. With The Brink, The Jezabels are continuing to lay claim to a fueling, intense and passionate sound; once you’re hooked, it’s going to be tough to put down.