Album Review: The Jezabels – ‘Prisoner’

Posted: 07/03/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on on February 24th 2012

If you’re pedantic about spelling like yours truly, best get it out of the way first and foremost – yes that’s an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’, and yes it’s MEANT to be spelt like that. The Jezabels have been gradually climbing the ladder of musical fame in their native Australia for a few years now, touring in support of EP releases before releasing their debut album Prisoner in September 2011, subsequently seeing it reach #2 in the national charts with certified gold sales. The first taste that Irish music fans got of the Sydney four-piece was at last year’s Electric Picnic – however, despite being heralded as a “must-see” in advance, their Saturday night slot overlapping the sets of main-stage draws Lykke Li and Arcade Fire inevitably meant that there were many who missed out. Thankfully, the time has come for them to release Prisoner to an eagerly awaiting audience – and it’s definitely one that’s been worth waiting for.

It’s not for nothing that The Jezabels describe themselves as “intensindie” – the opening title track is nothing short of epic. A lengthy pipe organ intro leads to staccato guitar riffs and frantic drums, a mid-song breakdown pits ominous piano against blippy synths, before it all amalgamates against lead singer Hayley Mary scaling the heights of her vocal range for a dramatic climax. However, in sharp contrast, the album’s two lead singles ‘Try Colour’ and ‘Endless Summer’ are practically made for the airwaves – in particular the latter, which has major anthemic potential, and could be destined to feature on many an American TV drama. So, the Jezabels effectively defy definition, genre-hopping their way out of being pigeonholed – and the result is an album with an unusual yet consistently enjoyable pace, switching from slow-burning gothic emo-rock to floor-stomping indie with ease. ‘City Girl’ is one of the many highlights that Prisoner offers up – the inspirations of the 80s on proud display, but with a modern twist. ‘Long Highway’ initially masquerades as a ballad, but gradually builds into a sprawling indie anthem – serving as probably the best example of the dynamic nature of The Jezabels… that is until the brilliant ‘Deep Wide Ocean’ comes along and out-does all that has come before it.

Prisoner is an album which will keep the listener guessing, but nevertheless completely captivated. But throughout it all, the common thread is likely next great leading lady Hayley Mary’s fantastic vocal performance. She holds a hugely impressive range, from her deep-rooted purrings to soaring octaves – it’ll be interesting to see how she carries it off live. The Jezabels make their Irish headline debut on Saturday May 19th in the Button Factory – get those tickets now, for once Prisoner is unleashed, it’ll be a surprise if it doesn’t sell-out.

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