Aussie foursome The Jezabels were in town last night at The Mod Club, and they delivered a theatrical and mesmerizing performance. For those of you that missed it, the band combined their maudlin balladry with their gritty metal-infused rock, making for one powerfully loud gig. Think of it as opera for punks.
Sanctified rock god trinity Eight and a Half kicked things off with tracks from their self-titled debut record. Comprised of former Broken Social Scene’s Justin Peroff and former members of The Stills (Dave Hamelin and Liam O’Neil), their thrumming synth machines, droning electric riffs and thumping drum beats washed over us in waves. Simply spellbinding. And, if nothing else, the half-hour set showed us that they are probably the most polite and endearing band in the city; they were gushing with “thank yous” directed at us, The Jezabels and each other after every song.
Then it came time for The Jezabels to take the stage. Lead singer Hayley Mary is unrivalled in stage charisma. Her bombastic yowling is what we were there to see — so much so that we’ll forgive her dorky dance moves (and her, ahem, serious case of Elvis pelvis). To be fair, it was obvious that Mary lives and breathes the music and feels it from head-to-toe, so her Emily Haines-esque writhing and snaking across the stage was rather infectious. Everyone in attendance had their eyes locked on her, and her quivering wail resonated up to the balcony like that of an old-school opera singer — or a grunge-y Debbie Harry or Cyndi Lauper.
Although they’ve only released one full-length (Prisoner, on local label Dine Alone Records), their three EPs — which hooked their cult following — provided plenty of songs from which to choose. Where previous studio records have failed to capture the booming essence of the music, the live set showcases the band’s ear-splitting capabilities. Even ivory tickler Heather Shannon’s delicacy radiated throughout the venue.
After seeing them live, it’s not surprising that the wonders from down under are quickly gaining traction on the international stage. Earlier this year, they took home the lauded Australian Music Prize for best local talent, (shockingly) beating out fellow Aussie, Gotye. In 2011, Prisoner was awarded album of the year at the Australian Rolling Stone Awards.
Boxing The Jezabels into a single genre is beyond challenging. Their studio album has an incredibly sweeping range, from sentimental love songs to heavy-metal-tinged rock numbers to glittering and paranoid dark tunes. If steampunk opera were such a thing, that might come close.