The Jezabels
Prisoner


4.5
superb

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
October 16th, 2011 | 509 replies | 29,182 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The rarity of a debut LP adding to an already superlative discography.

It is often interesting - and telling - to view the manner in which a band will begin their career. Some will jump head-first into their debut LP, while others would much prefer to toil away with demos, EPs and splits to ensure they are confident in their own identity and sound. Considering that The Jezabels released three EPs over the span of twenty months, it would appear that the Australian quartet fall into the latter category. However, the truth is that they were more than ready to advance after their enthralling debut 'The Man Is Dead'. Obviously perfectionists, The Jezabels continued to mature and hone their craft, with the comparitively sparser arrangements of their early indie-pop leaning highlights giving way to a fuller, more atmospheric sound come EP number three 'Dead Storm'. It should therefore come as no surprise that the long-awaited debut LP 'Prisoner' is far from a rehashed, formula-adhering release. While others could not have resisted in re-recording at least one EP standout, The Jezabels have ambitiously and assuredly moved on, resulting in the rarity of a debut LP adding to an already superlative discography.

"No more will I look around and wonder how it all began" croons lead vocalist Hayley Mary on the stunning 'City Girl', and from the moment the gothic organs kick-start the opening title track, you just know that The Jezabels are going to do anything but play it safe. Confirming that they will use the long-play format to fully explore the boundaries of their sound, an eye-opening crescendo of a throbbing synth pulse then propels the cut to its climax, before memorable lead single 'Endless Summer' proves that the outfit have far from abandoned their catchy melodicism. While it is ultimately inferior to the opening duo, six minute successor 'Long Highway' may in fact be the tune which sets the tone for 'Prisoner', with its sweeping, cinematic feel evident throughout the album. In order to assist this smooth unification of cohesion and progression, The Jezabels have not only retained producer Lachlan Mitchell, but also procured the services of American mixer/producer Peter Katis, whose work with the likes of The National, Interpol, Jonsi & The Swell Season is a perfect fit.

Virgin listeners will undoubtedly be drawn to the distinctive voice of Mary, who does not disappoint as she fully explores the breadth of her phenomenal vocal range. Often recalling Kate Bush and Tori Amos, the title track even has her evoking Placebo's Brian Molko, while the seamless transitions of her upper register to a lower tone on 'Horsehead' brings to mind The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan. Mary's most remarkable display though, comes on the strings-infused 'City Girls', whose chorus is simply chill-inducing. Over-emphasizing the role of the front-woman, however, would be down-playing the groups remaining three members, all of whom appear to be working double-time to compose near flawless music. Without a bass player, drummer Nik Kaloper continuously lays sturdy foundations, while additionally decorating the band's sound with energetic beats and fills. Keys player Heather Shannon also subtly assists in the rhythm department, while simultaneously laying down a number of beautiful melodies. Finally, the likes of 'Trycolour' and 'Catch Me' sees guitarist Sam Lockwood perform some glorious guitar lines that recall early U2, and are complemented by a fuzzier, distorted sound when required.

As with any outfit extending themselves in ambitious fashion, The Jezabels do occasionally over-step the mark. The quality of the lyrics is a little erratic, as Mary's affinity with strange metaphors and weird topics miss the mark as much as they hit. Furthermore, the lack of multiple immediate standouts may not only hurt the commercial appeal of 'Prisoner', but could also disappoint fans who were used to the band's releases containing no filler whatsoever. The album's latter half in particular seems preoccupied with enhancing diversity, as centerpiece 'Nobody Nowhere', three minute instrumental 'Austerlitz', and the hauntingly somber piano & synth ballad 'Peace of Mind' are all certain to prove divisive. Ultimately though, 'Prisoner' is unquestionably a captivating LP where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, since the cohesive nature of its songwriting is clearly intended to suit a beginning-to-end listening experience and enhance longevity.

Amongst the critical plaudits, burgeoning fanbase and outright quality of their body of work thus far, one extraordinary fact surrounding The Jezabels is that all four of their recordings have been independently released. As 'City Girl' advocates "Someone will hand you a sweet proposition one day", and it's difficult to believe that the same will not be the case for this talented collective soon enough. Likened to everyone from Arcade Fire to Kate Bush, and from The National to PJ Harvey, such varied comparisons suggest that The Jezabels are not only difficult to pigeon-hole, but are very much their own band with their own sound. At different stages, the cinematic nature of 'Prisoner' conjures up visions of long road trips, sprawling coastlines and the desolate outback. To quote another lyric from 'City Girl': "And saying goodbye to the sweet simple life that you knew", one gets the feeling that The Jezabels are yet to reach their desired destination and, promisingly, there is still a realistic sense of room for improvement apparent within their craft. It's an exciting notion that The Jezabels are just getting started and you can't help but feel that the sky is indeed their only limit.

Recommended Tracks: Endless Summer, City Girl, Horsehead, Deep Wide Ocean & Prisoner.



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user ratings (188)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Butkuiss (4.5)
No more will I look around and wonder how it all began, no more will I look around for you....


Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Me: Reviewing this album now is better late than never.
You: Listening to this band now is better late than never.

Apologies to 'Trycolour'. When a song that awesome can't sneak into the best 5 on a release, you know you have yourself a very special album.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

In all honesty, I've had this at a solid to strong 4 for the past couple of weeks or so. But when I really started to delve into it in order to write this review, then I couldn't help but raise the rating. As I said in the review, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Butkuiss
October 16th 2011



4154 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review my Davey. If anyone had to bump me off, I'm glad it was you! :P

I encountered the same phenomena as Davey. On first listen this album was a 4, but its grown on me in a rather major way since its release.

I think it's a little more than a coincidence that we both quote the same line from City Girl. Especially since you were talking about stealing lines from my review.

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

City Girl is the best song on here, SUCH a good album. Seeing them in two weeks too which is cool.

Digging: The Hotelier - Home, Like NoPlace Is There

Butkuiss
October 16th 2011



4154 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

They're playing a show here next week, but I'm being sent on some course and can't attend.

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ah that sucks. At least you know they will be back pretty soon haha

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks "MY" Butkuiss. Hehe.

I guess I still have issues with a few songs on this album and maybe even its length, but the top 8 or so tracks more than make up for that.

LOL. You're not going to believe this, but I didn't even notice you had that lyricas your summary... I kid you not. I more wanted it to tie it in with my introductory paragraph anyway.

But yes, I loved your line about Hayley being a cross between a femme fatale & a vulnerable country gal. Spot on.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Rowdy, can you believe that they sold out all 3 shows at The Forum!? I was even willing to go to Geelong to see them. Sold out too. Ballarat... Sold out. FML. I'm unsure of the chances of them doing sideshows to the BDO.

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah that's crazy. I have to go to the the U18 show though which is kinda eh because there will be small children and teenyboppers but yeah, better than nothing. Probably won't do sideshows, but they will probably tour Aus again next year. Can't believe how far they have come since I saw them open up Soundwave in 2010.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

That's the only f'n VIC show there are still tickets too.

They were at Soundwave? I don't recall that at all... Or was it in Sydney?

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They should do another forum show - they could probably sell out another three.
...I swear it was them, in Melbourne, before the Creepshow I think? they were the local act..

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

You mean a 4th... They've already sold out 3. I doubt it though, as it's probably too late to promote now.

It may have been & I just didn't know them well enough then. Although, I thought the locals on Soundwave were always state locals.

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It was definitely them. Maybe the state local had to pull out and Jezabels took their place. I don't know, haha. Either way, they've come a long way

AtavanHalen
October 16th 2011



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

vom

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Well, there you go. My guess is that even then they would have put on a great show.

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, to all twelve people watching them, haha.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

If you have the correct year, I was watching the brilliance of RX Bandits at that time.

HBFS
October 16th 2011



1230 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ah, bastard. Sadly back then I wasn't as into new music and searching for it etc like I am now, so I don't think I had even heard of them. It's kind of depressing looking back at some of the lineups of festivals I've gone to and all the bands I've missed who I would love to see now that I know who they are..

crazyblinddude
October 16th 2011



3389 Comments


oh my davey boy. def gonna have to give this a try if you 4.5'd it. you always can find those nice aussie bands i love to check out.

hope all is well btw. its all good here.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2011



20856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Know totally what you mean Rowdy. Especially when it comes to bands that are no more like RX Bandits & Envy On The Coast.

All good here to cbd. Definitely look into this & don't forget their EPs as well, as I have 2 of the 3 at 4.5 as well.



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