The Jezabels were conceived almost 10 years ago when students Hayley Mary (vocals), Samuel Lockwood (guitars), Heather Shannon (pianist/keyboardist) and drummer Nik Kaloper met at Sydney University. They took their name from the Biblical character Jezebel who was often perceived as misunderstood and misrepresented.
From 2009 to 2010 they released a trilogy of EPS: The Man is Dead, She’s So Hard and The Dark Storm. The Man is Dead got in the CMJ Top 200 chart in the summer of 2009 and their music was described by a national youth station as a mix of alternative and indie rock and disco pop. They part jokingly described their music as Intensindie, a tag that stuck at the time.
Their debut album Prisoner was released in September 2011, peaked at number two in the ARIA Albums Chart and won Best Independent Release in the ARIA Music Awards 2012 where Mary’s vocals were compared to the likes of Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper and even Freddie Mercury! Their second album Brink was then released on 31st January 2014. Synthia, their third album draws further on their influences: Cynthia being, in Greek mythology the goddess of the moon. So with headphones on, about to press “play”, I am intrigued.
Stand and Deliver is a seven-and-a-half minute epic that starts quietly and builds it’s layers. The lyrics are certainly beguiling as the heroine sings: “It was you and me daddy….you’re too busy for me now….let’s go back to the island”. It’s as mysterious as it is mesmerising with echoes of 80s synthesised pop, Mary’s vocals are smooth. Interesting how she both looks like Chrissie Hynde and actually sounds like her on this. I am left wanting to hear more.
My Love Is My Disease comes in sounding a bit like Talk Talk, a stomping landscape of electronic and operatic-like vocals. Smile has lovely layered vocals that bring to mind Kate Bush and I love the synthesised introduction of Unnatural which builds into dramatic power pop. The vocal on A Message From My Mothers Passed is gentle and soothing and entices you into the song. Berlin’s Take My Breath Away came to mind on this but this seems more surreal and dreamlike.
Come Alive begins captivatingly with its use of guitar and drum “Gather round all you young, heed my warning” reads like a Gothic fairytale. It has an edge and a broodiness to it. Despite the protagonists warnings she asserts “I come alive, I come alive”. (This was the first single to come off the album in December 2015 and has a brilliant, animated video with a woman being chased and tied to a stake. It is truly haunting, watch below).
This has a rock-opera style to it and is powerful to the end. A stand-out track as is the follow on Pleasure Drive (their current single) with strong synth and drums. “I’ve got 6, 6 baby and I like your style, just need one more number and I’ll make you mine.” This is alluring and charismatic; I can see why it’s been released as a single. It’s moody and dark but at the same time catchy and charming (evoking the Goddess again). After that there is Flowers in the Attic with its gentle piano introduction developing into an orchestrated sound with further ominous lyrics. This brought to mind These Dreams by Heart, it has that under a spell quality.
If Ya Want Me is cinematic, formidable and full of yearning. Stamina is trance-like to begin with and just builds and builds. Like If Ya Want Me it is a force to be reckoned with, it is a heroine on her mission as it builds to a crescendo. It’s like Wuthering Heights but it’s not, it belongs to itself. It’s like the songs on the album have been picked up in the middle and this one gently places them back again at the end.
What can I say? On listening to Synthia I feel like I’ve paid a visit to the cinema and watched a gripping, extraordinary film. You know when a film captures you that much and you come out, it’s daylight and your eyes hurt from the sun? That’s how this album felt. Intoxicating stuff: maybe it’s a full moon.