While intimate reduction remains a current trend in popular music it’s not necessarily a must. Why taken the simple road when life can also be sometimes larger than itself? Two years ago, Australian wave rock band THE JEZABELS made their debut album Prisoner a musical ode to this philosophy. Widescreen power-rock that might have even left Bono speechless. Big feelings, bigger emotions and an even bigger instrumentation. But the recipe worked quite well. The songs itself were quite catchy and the voice of Hayley Mary is one of the most distinctive ones around at the moment. A highwire act between kitsch and consequence but THE JEZABELS managed to successfully perform it.
Two years later, The Brink marks the second attempt of the four-piece to walk on this tightrope. And while they haven’t lost their feeling for epicness they stumble more often this time, making common mistakes a lot of bands do on their second record. Sophomore albums always tend to perfect the recipe of the debut output. Bands are showing their learned skills, they aim for high goals, boosted by a certain self confidence. And although this it is not a crime, this spirit is way more dangerous for a band like THE JEZABELS than for other acts. They were already quite close to kitsch on Prisoner – The Brink clearly oversteps the line in a few moments, taking away most of the remaining edges from the debut.
The title-track already sets us in the perfect mood. Tension is in the air, the big string patterns are playing and Mrs. Mary is once more in top form. The pumping Time To Dance hits in the same direction, coming with the yearning key line “When you work so hard, say what’s the point in having all that gas?” that Mary perfectly delivers. By now the listener already senses the slick production. Former LANA DEL REY and HURTS producer Dan Grech-Marguerat made the epic anthems of THE JEZABELS more radio friendly. The noisy guitars are way softer, the drums less hard and the synthesizers way more prominent. Speaking of the usual ‘second-album-problems’ – here you have it.
Anyway, the start of the record works, even with a cheesy KILLERS-sounding like power pop tune like Look Of Love. But in the course of the rest of the record the songs lack a bit of quality. Beat To Beat with its slick R&B touch is as much of a low point as the sort-of-ballad Angels Of Fire. Tracks like the first single The End or Got Velvet suddenly feel replaceable. THE JEZABELS stick to close to their formula, creating a feeling of boredom through this. Whenever they tend to go a different way it really works. No Country marks the highlight of the album, thanks to the touching lyrics and the great musical set-up. Same goes for the gentle ballad Psychotherapy that shows another different side from the band. One that feels a bit more real and authentic.
Maybe going for the epicness isn’t always the best way. Various moments on The Brick show that THE JEZABELS are capable of creating really great pop musical moments once they are brave enough to not follow the obvious path. The main problem might be Prisoner itself. What a statement for a debut album! Basically the band already achieved everything on that album in terms of large stadium rock. Maybe a different road for the future could provide new potential. One that is a bit more grounded and a bit edgier. All in all, these are important aspects of life as well.
On their second LP ‘The Brink’ THE JEZABELS once again provide epic emotions and big rock anthems that somehow unfortunately tend to bore the listener.
NBHAP Rating: 2,5/5