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Review: The Jezabels perform at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Written By | Aug 11, 2014
The Jezabels. Courtesy of the band.

The Jezabels. Courtesy of the band.

WASHINGTON, August 11, 2014 – When the Jezabels were on stage recently at DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel, there didn’t seem to be much to separate them from any number of indie rock bands who have been in the public consciousness over the last decade or so.

The Jezabels are an Australian band. But aside from Hayley Mary’s occasional flourishes with her accent, that didn’t necessarily stand out either. That’s because the Jezabels operate within very familiar territory for anyone who has been paying attention to the pop/rock landscape for some time now.

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The Jezabels incorporate post-punk musical ideologies with a deft, synth-pop touch and danceable bursts of modern disco-like beats that feel almost as if they’re straight from a club. Or would be if they weren’t so considerate of nurturing their melodic element. Theirs is the kind of package that’s been evolving since the 1980s, when more divergent styles were being melded together into a cohesive whole.

On the surface, the Jezabels feel like a conglomerate of those styles. The incredibly competent gloss of this band makes everything feel purposefully and professionally assembled to create the most dance worthy pop songs an audience has ever heard.

That description of the Jezabels might make them feel cold and experimental in an almost clinical way. But they’re not especially experimental, just uncommonly excellent in uniting a great number of contemporary genre threads.

This is really just an extension of how tight and polished they are as a band, a phenomenon that can occasionally undercut some of the more interesting aspects of the Jezabels. But that’s of little matter. Everything about their presentation is almost impossibly smooth.

The architecture of the band consists of Mary on vocals, Samuel Lockwood on guitar, Heather Shannon on keyboard, and Nik Kaloper on drums. The Australian quartet is about as balanced in their positioning as their sound happens to be when they’re playing at their best. This balance was defined early when four people with likeminded musical goals met at college and decided to get together to perform. Today, it still has a definite impact on their music as a whole.

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It would be easy to call the Jezabels a feminine band at its core due to their well-honed melodicism and the inherent softness that surrounds every one of their songs. At the same time, they’re certainly approaching their music as one kind of feminist band. Much of their music deals with power, whether it’s personal in the lyrics Hayley Mary sings, or as an ensemble in the confident structure of a band where each member makes important contributions to their songs.

Since the band presents itself on such equal footing, it’s difficult not to view them in this light. Their songs aren’t necessarily anthems. But every song during their set surges with energy to the point where just standing there listening – and most likely resisting the urge to move – feeling momentous and uplifting.

The oddly dissonant vulnerability that weaves itself into the mix makes that sensation stronger and opens up the band’s set with a unique sincerity and honesty. It doesn’t take a lot for a band to be progressive or unique. But during their performance here, the Jezabels exuded the kind of rare confidence and ability that served to push their musical ideas and ideals forward in a uniquely uplifting way at the Rock and Roll Hotel.

Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer. He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years. Currently he lives in Vienna, VA. He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.