Live: The Jezabels @ Gorilla, Manchester 25/02/2014
Watch out! A pandemic of Australian acts has broken out on our airwaves, magazines and even our gig venues. What’s at risk? Your sanity, as wave upon wave of tunes indebted to the quintessentially British genre of psychedelia are infused with every other sound under the sun by scruffy oiks in beads, tie-dye and skinny jeans. So far, the infectious results of Pond’s bombastic psyche-space rock, Jagwar Ma’s Acid-psyche, Courtney Barnett slacker-psyche, Tame Impala’s prog-psyche have immersed us in some enjoyably deranged records.
And yet, on Jezabel’s second effort “The Brink” (released this February), the Aussie quartet tackled a genre that no amount of psycho-tropical substances could warp the minds of any self-respecting band into touching… Soft Rock.
“The Brink” heavy set-list witnessed The Edge-like riffs skate over prancing M83 synth-pop hooks whilst Texas-sized swelling choruses with (gasp!) bare-all emotional lyrics were pumped in fearlessly. These hallmarks of turn of the century MOR would see most indie-kids hurl quicker than you could say Coldplay.
And yet, tonight tracks such as the soaring “Look of Love”, balladry of “No Country” and infectious new single “The End” were master-classes in feel-good pop. Hayley Mary’s channelling of Sharlene Spiteri’s stage prowess was breath-taking as she delivered pitch-perfect vocals with captivating onstage vigour. Galloping drums, massive choruses and sensational charisma easily created the illusion of an Arena show, but such illusions were often shattered with pervasive use of the formula, serving to expose weaker tracks of similar style (for instance the maudlin “Psychotherapy”). After all, good songs and not just a big sound puts bands in stadiums. After 45 minutes, the intitial adrenaline rush wore off and the gap for the encore felt welcome, readying the audience for the night to close out with the sombre “Catch Me” and the uplifting big-hit euphoria of “Easy to Love”, which provided engaging contrast as a finale.
Psychedelia? Its been done. Trying to make Soft Rock acceptable again? Now there’s a challenge. Jezabels have thrown down the gauntlet.