When dissecting Methyl Ethel‘s last release, 2017’s ‘Everything Is Forgotten‘, we (perhaps rather unfairly) labelled them just another “psychedelic rock band from Perth” who were struggling to to escape from the shadow of the nation’s exports like Tame Impala. Thankfully, ‘Triage’, the band’s third album is in no danger of fulfilling that prophecy – it’s quite like nothing we’ve heard from them before.
A new approach is not surprising considering the change of circumstances for Jake Webb, leader of the project. Their first album, 2016’s ‘Oh Human Spectacle’ was made when the band were unknowns beyond their home city, but then 2017’s, ‘Everything Is Forgotten’, introduced themselves to an international audience and landed them snuggly on our end of year list. ‘Triage’, by Webb’s own admission, was the first record made by the band with the knowledge that sets of ears would be waiting eagerly.
So consider their third album not only a new challenge for Webb’s musical prowess, but one that is also undoubtedly their easiest entry point. The record flirts with ‘80s synth-pop just the appropriate amount, and sheds some of the more experimental aspects in rather ruthless fashion. The result is, more often than not, quite dazzling. ‘Trip The Mains’, perhaps Webb’s finest composition yet, appears to share its electrifying opening riff with Donna Summer’s disco classic ‘Hot Stuff’, before diving headfirst into a seismic chorus that’d shatter Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’. Elsewhere, the haunting ‘Scream Whole’ begins as a soothing lullaby, before unravelling itself into a doomy slice of noir-pop.
This momentum is intermittent though, disappointingly. With a hypnotic groove and eerie aura, ‘Hip Horror’ is forced to carry the album’s lacking second half, while ‘What About The 37°’ and ‘No Fighting’ noodle themselves into oblivion with neither offering much in terms of intrigue. And the same creeping habits that derailed the latter half of ‘Everything Is Forgotten’ return, as ‘Real Tight’ ties itself up in knots, with not a soul around to rescue some lyrical mudpies (“All of the time/Out in the background/You were sublime/But tell me real live, is this real life?”).
There’s plenty of proof on ‘Triage’ that Methyl Ethel are not simply another “psychedelic rock band from Perth”. In fact, if they manage to build on this unconventional approach to pop and show just a little more restraint, a brand new chapter for the band could be starting.
- Release date: February 15
- Record label: 4AD