Release Date: Feb 15, 2019
Record label: 4AD
Methyl Ethel's third album is choc-a-bloc with hooks and head-nodding electro-pop goodness from the get go. The record was recorded entirely by Jake Webb at his home in Perth - but you'd be easily fooled into believing it was the work of a much greater studio set-up, such is the variety and vibrancy of sounds present in each song. 'Ruiner' gallops about a swaggering chorus as Jake's androgynous vocal repeats "that's not good enough", before a Tame Impala-style bass line lays down a solid groove in 'Scream Whole'.
Flashback to mid-March, 2016. It was early in the afternoon in Austin, TX, which undoubtedly meant that one could only be bothered to care about one thing: SXSW. The festival was well underway, and I'd had my eye on up and coming Aussie trio Methyl Ethel and planned to watch one of their sets at infamous Austin dive Hotel Vegas. Later I would discover the project is solely spearheaded by singer and guitarist Jake Webb.
With a title that's a play on words, Methyl Ethel's third album of a self-described trilogy, Triage, was produced, performed, and recorded by Jake Webb at his home studio, though its lush, lopsided textures hardly sound like what was a solo effort until the mixing stage. Parts melancholy, trippy, and dancy, he combined programmed and traditional instruments, including his own synth timbres, layering them in ways that sound more like atmospheric arena fare than what was essentially a one-man recording project. (At this point, Webb continues to perform live with bandmates.
Methyl Ethel are named for one element in particular, a colorless, aromatic organic compound used in industrial solvents. But a whole bunch of elements--all of them, to be exact--find their way onto the successful Aussie band's third record. Searing electric chords permeate the sparkling solution that is "All The Elements," one of the best songs on the album, a winding response to a pesky, poking subconscious.
The Lowdown: Methyl Ethel could have had their pick of producers on their new album, Triage, after teaming up with all-star producer James Ford last go-round. Instead, frontman Jake Webb decided to take the job himself, and the result is a bombastic declaration that says: "Methyl Ethel can do whatever they want!" Webb corrals all the group’s eclectic sounds into intriguing packages, like using sonic manipulation as an intro to a bunch of gnarly guitar chords. Varied in its depth and ambiguous in its inspiration, Triage ventures forward, as its title suggests, by trying to find the most urgent musical avenue to explore.
An often-dazzling, albeit inconsistent, third record from Perth's new pop masters 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.
When 4AD launched in 1980 it quickly became the most trusted label for fans of independent and eclectic music. Not quite so much anymore. While still priding itself as an outlet for independent bands, the label's music has become a bit less trustworthy. And so it is with Methyl Ethel's Triage, the Australian trio's third album.