Methyl Ethel - Triage - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Methyl Ethel - Triage

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-02-15
Methyl Ethel - Triage
Methyl Ethel - Triage

Many artists become more experimental as their career progresses, but for Methyl Ethel, the exact opposite appears to be true. With each coming album, the Australian art-rock project feels to be finding comfort in the relatively conventional. That being said, what may seem tame and routine for Jake Webb is still undeniably steeped in the world of the strange and ambitious.  The band’s third outing, Triage, indulges in their space-age dream pop leanings more than ever before, establishing a fully formed sound and creating a thriving ecosystem that finds Methyl Ethel at both its most playful and its most focused.

Much like 2015’s Oh Inhuman Spectacle and 2017’s Everything Is Forgotten, Triage is a deeply introspective collection. It’s all too easy to let the infectious, vibrant electronic grooves of tracks like the theatrical, dance pop of “Ruiner” and the mesmerizing retro charm of “Trip the Mains” distract from their lyrical exploration, but Jake Webb continues to use the medium of song to ponder his place in the universe. While exploring both his own limitations and the metric by which he evaluates his self-worth, Webb calls upon great thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre, as on eerie, chamber pop single ”Scream Whole.” The exhaustive exercise in self-reflection dives even deeper than on previous Methyl Ethel records, with Webb truly holding up a mirror to his own memories and reporting his findings back to the audience.

But that isn’t to suggest that Triage takes itself too seriously. It can be a demanding record, but only if the listener allows it to be. Otherwise, the silky, atmospheric dreamscapes birthed on these tracks are ripe for the soundtrack of an informal hangout. Peppy songs like the upbeat “All the Elements” and the creamy, bubbly “Real Tight” are practically bursting at the seams with kinetic energy, now trading in the trippy psychedelia of earlier Methyl Ethel releases for catchy hooks and boisterous melodies. And the album also boasts a much more mellow side, as on stylish mood piece ”Hip Horror” or “Post-Blue,” a haunting, subdued plea for reconciliation.

Even if the sound has been distilled into a more familiar and accessible product, Methyl Ethel continues to value the seductive allure of surrealism. The sticky pop jams still make time for enigmatic sound collages, and some tracks take matters a step further. Drifting through the cosmos, we encounter strange and interesting numbers like the shimmering and majestic ”What About the 37°?” or the emotional, off-kilter ”No Fighting.” No matter how straightforward Triage can appear on the surface, it still flexes bizarre and curious muscles. Nothing is ever entirely ordinary with Jake Webb.

Simply put, Triage is a flashy and merry dream pop record and one that also shines a light on Webb’s personal philosophical journey. It’s the strongest Methyl Ethel album to date, finding true lasting appeal in the most unlikely places. One can only speculate where the inimitable project will go next, but it will no doubt be an odyssey worth taking.

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