Typical of Methyl Ethel’s main driving force – the producer and multi-instrumentalist Jake Webb – ‘Hurts To Laugh’ is jammed full of heady, complex layers. Recorded during the sessions for the Perth art-rock group’s last album ‘Triage’, this latest EP consists of all the ideas that spilled over the brim. Much like its predecessor, ‘Hurts to Laugh’ is an experimental, wonky pop record, studded with glimmers of brilliance – and the odd stumble.
‘Majestic AF’ skips ominously across vaguely menacing double harmonic major scales; delving into the bleak drudge of a mundane life gradually disappearing, it’s jauntily nihilistic. “I can only hope you find a reason for the grind,” it whispers. ‘Charm Offensive’ is as charismatic and foreboding as its title; its repetitive vocal outbursts serve as a kind of warped, half-distinguishable instrument.
‘What Memory Found’ settles into a spacey groove, ruminating on the hazy pictures we file away in our grey matter. As with ‘Majestic AF’ it’s fixated on time marching forward, and concrete memories that gradually erode. “In a moment it connects, plastered, permanently set,” they sing, stood in the moment, “then rusted with doubt, just another to forget.”
Cranking up the melodrama, ‘Honest’ sounds like a particularly energetic Muse B-side – depending on your feelings towards Muse, this may prove to be a selling point or something of a barrier. As with ‘Charm Offensive”s repetitive statements of adoration, ‘Honest’ also amps up and exaggerates; this time, by employing battle metaphors: “I was sick and dying from the wars / Caught up and reeling from the pain of keeping you assured.” It’s dramatic, if a little predictable.
More subdued and ponderous, ‘The Quicker’ whips up into an atmospheric storm via other means. Though this song was written long before our current reality, its talk of “daily isolation” and languishing away long days indoors hits with an extra string now. Knowing the full-blown, saturated excess that Methyl Ethel are capable of, the closing track leaves you wishing they had let things spiral fully out of control instead of holding back.
As a companion to ‘Triage’, ‘Hurts to Laugh’ extends further on the huge potential – and Methyl Ethel are most interesting when they sack off tried-and-tested writing devices in favour of strange and swerving imagery: foul nodes clogging arteries and memories gathered in a muslin shroud (‘What Memory Found’) and bottled up Leviathan (‘Majestic AF’). Here’s hoping they keep things weird in the future.
Release date: April 10
Record label: Dot Dash/Remote Control