Life is fleeting, identity is transitory, pleasure is an escape.
In the four years since their last visit to Adelaide, The Jezabels have confronted mortality head on, with keyboard player Heather Shannon overcoming a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. For artists already prone to introspection and a search for meaning, such a trauma undoubtedly triggered an evaluation of what matters in life.
Enigmatic frontwoman Hayley Mary admitted that the band has an identity crisis stylistically. While the band has previously been described as being partly disco-pop, Mary described ‘Come Alive’ from third album ‘Sylvia’ as “metal with melody”. With its ominous bassline ascending from purgatory into a transcendently angelic chorus, the moody tale of rebirth is like a less melodramatic incarnation of Evanescence.
When struggling with identity, Mary seeks pleasure, as she croons on the '80s synth-propelled ‘Pleasure Drive’. Mary is a serpentine enchantress cooing for us all to bite the apple. On stage, Mary evokes a who’s who of frontwomen; encased in tight, black leather with her ruby lips blazing through a fog of Ramones-esque hair, she channels Chrissy Amphlett as she sensually gyrates her hips. Her vocals, taking inspiration from Cyndi Lauper and Kate Bush, range from a seductive, low-pitch snarl to soaring crescendos. She is easy to love; it is impossible to resist.
While great bands need such fierce and compelling focal points, they are also a sum of their various parts. Drummer Nik Kaloper should be nicknamed Nik Galloper; his heavy metal trained drumming is a pivotal component of their sound to the same extent that Jimmy Chamberlin mattered to the Smashing Pumpkins. While Sam Lockwood and Heather Shannon weave together intricate melodic soundscapes.
While past hits 'Disco Love Biscuit’, ‘Hurt’ and ‘Easy To Love’ all received enraptured responses, tracks from 'Sylvia' already mentioned and ‘My Love Is My Disease’ and ‘If Ya Want Me’ are stadium fillers. While their search for identity may not yet be over, we can only hope they remain as they are for at least a few albums.
In support, Ali Barter revealed that two of her biggest hits to date, ‘Girlie Bits’ and ‘Far Away’, were both written when she was pissed off. While Barter cheekily pokes out her tongue and smiles between tracks, there is a searing intensity residing behind her eyes as she delivers emotive-grunge pop that harkens back to girl bands from the early noughties such as Skulker. While the recent viral video by Laura Imbruglia about macho guitar culture indicates that there are still barriers faced by girls who rock, Barter and The Jezabels are hammering on the walls.
The Jezabels sent the girls home empowered and the guys home to a cold shower.