Review Summary: The Jezabels' frontwoman goes solo with a down-to-earth EP that is simpler than her past catalog, but also a lot more fun.
It’s been almost four years on-the-dot since The Jezabels released Synthia
, an epic electronic/synth outing that saw them complete their departure from rock music. In the world of entertainment/media that’s a lengthy absence, so one could almost be forgiven for overlooking The Piss, The Perfume
– the debut EP from the group’s charismatic frontwoman Hayley Mary. The Piss, The Perfume
is a no frills pop-rock record that, despite Hayley’s newfound autonomy, sounds in many ways like a return to form for the band – only with some important distinctions. This is hardly the experimental, dreamy powerhouse that Prisoner
was; instead, Mary sounds the part of Cyndi Lauper – down-to-Earth, rocking her socks off, and most importantly having fun. It’s a simultaneous throwback and step forward, a short collection of upbeat pop-rock tracks that, unlike most Jezabels offerings, are free from any thematic or conceptual ties. Hayley sings about common concerns and about being in love; it’s a carefree skip down the street compared to The Jezabels’ more elaborate, choreographed struts. There’s obvious drawbacks to be inferred from that statement, but the end result is an EP that doesn’t take itself too seriously and markets itself incredibly well.
‘The Piss, The Perfume’ makes Hayley’s mission statement well-known immediately – the song begins with wailing guitars before you’re even two seconds in, and then cuts to melodic verses and an unforgettable chorus. Despite the sugary warmth that coats the title track – and really the entire EP – it somehow still feels very rooted in the basics of rock: acoustic guitars are strummed throughout, the drums never cease and pick up their intensity at all the right moments, and Hayley’s vocals soar with each chorus while drawing a grittier, more passionate tone when she’s delving into the song’s intricacies. Prior to the release of the EP, she stated “I wanted it to be Motown, I want it to be punk, I want it to be Australiana, I want it to be country, I want it to be Celtic…” – somehow, The Piss, The Perfume
checks all those boxes and the title track most accurately illustrates that. Elsewhere, ‘Like a Woman Should’ shows off Hayley’s vocal range better than any song save perhaps for Synthia
’s ‘Stand and Deliver’, as she deftly shifts between high and low inflections while maintaining her powerful delivery throughout. ‘Ordinary Me’ and ‘Holly’ are slower in tempo but further highlight the stunning clarity and control she has over her voice – the former is particularly gorgeous, employing the most breathtaking melody she’s written since ‘No Country’, while the latter possesses forlorn wails and an almost rustic vibe. The experience wraps up with ‘Brat’, which really drives home the aforementioned punk aspirations while also sending The Piss, The Perfume
out on what could only be described as a raucous note.
Hayley Mary’s solo debut does just about everything that it’s supposed to do: it retains the influences that made her into a star, but it also branches out and tries different things using those qualities. If you’re going to directly compare it to The Jezabels, then it is closer to Prisoner
than it is to either of their synth-bound offerings (The Brink
) – but the reality is that it’s quite unlike anything she’s ever composed before. It’s not as daring, insightful, or complex as her band’s work, granted, but this is simply an old fashioned, stripped down pop-rock album that delivers one enjoyable tune after another. Dedicated fans of The Jezabels will still be holding out hope for a fourth LP, but The Piss, The Perfume
is a strong enough solo debut that Hayley Mary could, should she so choose to, step into the limelight and never look back.