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The Jezabels are the quintessential self-made success story. Two independent albums and three EPs in, they’ve conquered Australia and expanded their fan base into Europe and America. For a band only four-years-old, they’ve amassed an impressive and lengthy discography–one that makes the notoriously difficult second album seem less of a daunting task.
Unlike other sophomore LPs, The Brink doesn’t reek of a band trying to follow the formula of the previous record or making a self-conscious attempt at being wildly different. Instead they’ve taken a minor step forward in a genre in which they already excel. While Prisoner was a dense and at times draining listen, The Brink is a little lighter and shorter, with the band employing a few pop tricks.
The most obvious pop turn comes in the form of the disco-flavoured Look Of Love. A strobing synth drives the verse amid flighty strings, before launching into an anthemic love-laced chorus. Hearing The Jezabels embrace their melodic side and deliver a stellar pop tune feels as though a load has been lifted off the listener’s shoulders.
The Brink also introduces the latest toy in The Jezabels’ arsenal: the synth. You can often hear it pop up unexpectedly alongside the drum pad, such as in Angels of Fire, which opens with a slice of electronica and features the line, “Hit me with the rhythm of Beyonce“. As if you needed a bigger hint that the band have well and truly embraced pop.
Those yearning for The Jezabels’ Cranberries-esque darkness should not despair though. The Brink is certainly not a breezy listen. Frontwoman Hayley Mary has spoken openly about the lows that followed two years of touring and this comes out on a number of songs. The jarring and sporadic-sounding title track has Hayley singing, “When you’re looking back on better days, it’s because you wanted something real“, over thundering drums and heavy keys.
Individually, each band member contributes something different. Hayley knows when to kick her voice up an octave, while guitarist Samuel Lockwood flips expertly between acoustic and electric guitar. Nik Kaloper‘s drumming is as controlled as ever, making it even more effective when he lets loose on a song like Time To Dance. All the while, Heather Shannon underpins Hayely’s vocal melodies with delectable synths (Beat to Beat) or piano riffs fit to score a movie (Psychotherapy).
Perhaps the most pleasurable aspect of The Brink is the glimmer of hope that lies beneath the songs. First single The End may on the surface sound like a depressing notion, but in the context of the album, it’s a new beginning. “It’s lucky for me that I don’t mind being patient / Growing a flower from the ground“, sings Hayley, before launching into the trademark heights of her vocal range for a stellar chorus.
A lyric like “A blue sky dawning, every single morning” on album closer All You Need may sound corny in the context of another band, but here it’s a welcome spot of optimism. The song embodies a changing band while retaining the elements that define them–the chilling voice, rollicking percussion, and overcast atmosphere.
There’s certainly a feeling that The Jezabels could have strayed further from the sound of Prisoner, but baby steps have ensured they neither stumble nor stray too far. Instead, The Brink‘s subtle instrumental experimentation and appreciation for the simplicity of a pop melody suggests they are on the right track.