The Jezabels – Prisoner
With three critically acclaimed EP’s down, and a debut album on the verge of release, The Jezabels are at the forefront of the Australian Indie music scene.
Originally founded by Byron bred singer Haley Mary and keyboard player Heather Shannon, The Jezabels only really came to fruition with the joining of guitarist Sam Lockwood and drummer Nik Kapoler. Meeting during their days at Sydney University, The Jezabels have been enticing audiences and wowing critics since 2006. Breaking into the Australian music scene as many have before them, entering a local band competition, The Jezabels distinctive sound and powerful beats set them apart, leading them to this pinnacle in their music career thus far.
Prisoner was recorded at Sydney’s Attic Studios during a busy a year of touring (which included shows in the UK, Canada and Europe) and is The Jezabels highly anticipated debut album. Following an array of hugely successful singles such as Mace Spray and Easy to Love, this album had quite the task ahead of it. The band teamed up once again with producer Lachlan Mitchell, who also produced their first three EP’s. Joining the production ranks this time around was Peter Katis who has worked with the likes of The National, Interpol and Jonsi.
There is no question. Prisoner is a dramatic gothic epic, with a twist of 80’s power-house rock. Jezabels singer Haley Mary sums up their sound perfectly as “Bronte-esque gothic (and) melodramatic”. Channelling Kate Bush, Freddie Mercury and Cyndi Lauper, Mary’s vocals are a force to be reckoned with.
The album opens with its namesake, Prisoner. I can’t shake the similarities to Muse’s Knights of Cydonia, and I expect at any moment the climatic statement “no one’s going to take me alive!” – Alas, the distinctive Jezabels sound kicks back in, and the tone for the album is set – gothic and grand. Prisoner is followed by their first single off the album, Endless Summer. Already copping a heap of airplay on Triple J, Endless Summer is definitely ‘the single’ on the album. I would not classify it as the stand out track, yet it is definitely the most radio-friendly and will no doubt become a summer festival regular.
Much of this album feels like the soundtrack to a movie. Which I have no doubt is intentional. It follows the same ebbs and flows as that of an 80’s cinematic drama. This makes the album interesting to listen to, as it’s not something you would put on quietly in the lounge room. This album feels as though it was written and produced to play loud, and to be really listened to. I kept imagining lying on a grassy hill in the sun at a festival, taking in the sound belting from the stage.
As the album progresses the intensity does not waver. The layered sound blasting from the drums and guitar seem to set up a challenge to the vocals. Any other singer might get lost in amongst the impressive sound – but Haley Mary takes on the band and gives it right back. This back and forth between the epic drums and intimidating vocals makes for a momentous sound. In all honesty, the first half of the album is quite exhausting to listen to. City Girl brings to it The Jezabels we knew from the EP’s – feminine and vivid, which differs nicely from the 80’s pop rock sound employed by the previous tracks. Prisoner does take quite a fraught turn with Nobody Nowhere, which may be a point of contention for some listeners.
Interestingly, Prisoner appears to take an unsubtle turn at track nine, with the tranquil instrumental, Austerlitz. This interlude signals a distinct change in the album’s tone. Steering away from the intense gothic rock sound and into the softer Jezables sound we heard in previous singles such as Easy to Love. This creates a somewhat dichotomous situation whereby the second half of the album is vastly different from the first. The final three tracks, Peace of Mind, Reprise and Catch Me offer a sense of relief from the powerful melodies experienced at the start of the album. These songs wrap up the album in a similar way to film. The action has played out and a resolution has been found. The album’s climax Catch Me really has a sense of finality about it, yet it leaves you wanting more.
Overall The Jezabels have released a unique, well produced and layered debut album. However, given the distinctive sound of the album, it may not be to everyone’s liking. If you are not Jezabels fan to begin with, this will be unlikely to sway you.
The album shows the coming together of multiple music genres which can result in a very intense and at times bewildering sound. The band’s members come from a variety of musical backgrounds including heavy-metal, 80’s pop, classical and folk, and as a result, Prisoner has numerous musical identities. It will be interesting to see if The Jezabels are able establish a single identity as they develop as a band.
Vulture gives Prisoner by The Jezabels – 7 out of 10 and it can be yours to own from all good record stores on September 16.