Special to The Chronicle
Special to The Chronicle

The Jezabels
4/5 stars

The Jezabels have been a steady chart presence in their home country of Australia since their 2011 album “Prisoner,” yet they still remain largely unknown in the United States. Their new record, “The Brink,” is a departure from the ‘70s influenced indie-rock of “Prisoner” and is instead an homage to the ‘80s. It's a good new look; “The Brink” is a smart yet danceable album that should make many Americans take notice of The Jezabels’ talent.

The album's obvious sonic predecessor is Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2009 album “It’s Blitz!,” a similarly new wave-influenced work that married shiny ‘80s dance beats to an alternative sensibility. However, The Jezabels have ample assets to distinguish themselves from other like-minded bands. Lead singer Hayley Mary has a huge vocal range, and when she uses her highest register, which she does on songs like ‘Time To Dance,’ she amplifies a track’s emotional drama almost instantly. “The Brink” also has the assistance of longtime Scissor Sisters and Lana del Rey collaborator Dan Grech-Marguerat, who brings a steady hand to the production. Every song is well-arranged, and Mary’s vocals and the rest of the band's instrumentals are given equal chance to shine.

On “The Brink,” The Jezabels do not just dabble with ‘80s influences—they leap headfirst into them. The spirit of The Cure, Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees can be found in almost every song. It is not an especially innovative album, but it never sounds like a retreat. On the album’s best song ‘Beat To Beat,’ Mary sings, “From beat to beat, we find our own melody,” and it feels like a mission statement. “The Brink” is one of the most hook-filled albums in recent memory, and is a rare record in which any song could have been the lead single. Highlights include the shimmering, trip hop ballad ‘Psychotherapy,’ the incisive rocker ‘The End’ and the hazy disco reverie ‘The Brink.’ Ironically, the album’s only real misstep is the actual lead single, ‘Look of Love.’ The song suffers from an excess of bombast; it starts at 10 from the very first line and dials its way up to 11 after the first chorus. ‘Look of Love’ is a curious anomaly for a band that usually excels at building drama and tension over a four-minute song.

Overall, the Jezabels avoid a sophomore slump with an album that improves upon their first. While it is not progressive in any way, the a trip to the disco is an exciting new direction for the band, and it will be exciting to see them expand on this formula in the future.