“I’m not going to sleep under the glass ceiling,” Jaguar Jonze sings on his debut album, his voice barely a whisper.
Then, moments later, with the volume turned up, “You could have destroyed me, but then I got loud.”
This defiance is at the heart of Bunny Mode, an 11-track behemoth that cuts into its specificity. Its title refers to a survival tactic the artist employed as a childhood abuse survivor: a frozen response to any security threat, like a frightened rabbit. The record is a middle finger to oppressors and aggressors, as the artist – real name Deena Lynch – breaks free from their grip, rising again.
The Brisbane musician, who released two EPs as Jaguar Jonze in 2020 and 2021, leans into an esoteric sound through Bunny Mode, fortified by the unbridled anger of her lyrics. Sonically and thematically, the record bears similarities to Halsey’s 2021 album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power – both draw inspiration from industrial music, constructing feminist narratives and rebuttals without shamelessly on glorious walls of sound. Despite experimentation and pushing boundaries, everything is still underpinned by pop and a talent for melody, like on the passionate slow-builder Small fireswho Lynch performed as part of Australia’s Eurovision decider in February.
While there’s a lot to like musically – Bunny Mode moves away from the looping spaghetti western sounds of Lynch’s early work to experiment with darker, heavier sounds, and the singer’s vocal chops are, as always, impressive – the real power of the album is in the lyrical detail. It’s another piece of the activism puzzle for Lynch, who has spent much of the past two years at the forefront of the fight for change as leader of Australia’s #MeToo movement, highlighting bad behavior in the music industry. It also explores the more personal process of healing and recovery from trauma.
These many facets are visible through different threads of the album: on one of the most downbeat tracks, Drawing Lines, Lynch gently sings about the importance of setting boundaries. The fury is most evident on tracks like Who Died and Made You King, all angular guitars and hard-hitting electropop beats, as Lynch spits, almost mockingly, “You’re sick and a victim of your own disease. It’s exciting to hear the tables turn against the powers that be in this way – a reclamation of space, a bold declaration of self-sovereignty.
The highlight is Punchline, which takes a close look at symbolism and racism within the entertainment industry. Like Camp Cope’s The Opener, the Taiwanese-Australian artist regurgitates the ticked-off feelings of corporate bigwigs to reveal their hollowness: spicy.” Over groaning guitars and layered vocals, Lynch comes in his own image, rejecting the condescension of the white-centric industry that still sees artists of color as another exotic.
The consistent construction of Lynch’s world throughout the album provides a captivating, absorbing and often intimate listening experience. Her many creative personalities – musically as Jaguar Jonze, visually as Spectator Jonze and photographically as Dusky Jonze – swirl across the record, but she emerges as a singularity: a woman who survived despite everything.
After all the noise and rage, fire and passion, it’s barely a whisper, once again, that ends the record. The instrumentals were cut for Lynch’s controlled vocals to deliver his scathing final words to the patriarchy and all that permits: “This has always been a man-made monster that only a woman can destroy.”