Live Review: Methyl Ethel

Alex Capper

As I walked into the Northcote Social Club, I instantly sensed an anxious feeling of excitement hovering over the crowd at Methyl Ethel’s third sold out Melbourne show. The Perth band has been on a skyrocketing joyride of success since the release of their debut record, Oh Inhuman Spectacle, which has included overseas tours, a slot at SXSW and a consequential international record deal.

As I awkwardly stumbled towards a comfortable pocket of the band room, I couldn’t help but be taken back by how, with all their burgeoning hype, beautifully straightforward Methyl Ethel are.

You could be forgiven if, at first glance, you mistook Methyl Ethel for just any other band in Melbourne and I mean that in the best possible way.

No grand curtain entrance, a minimalistic guitar, bass, drums set up which was illuminated by a constant singular stream of ethereal blue light  for the whole set. The band themselves looked like they could have been any 3 kids picked off High St and thrown onto the stage. It was intimate and I was caught off-guard by how relatable the whole show was. It seem like we were offered a snapshot into a band that hasn’t fully come to terms with how quickly they are soaring in the musical world.

However, as soon as the band opened with ‘Shadowboxing’, it was clear that they are definitely not just like any other band. Led by multi-instrumentalist Jake Webb, the trio delivered a dreamy display of melodic art pop. It was retrospective, yet the composition felt innovative and intricate. With hazy backing tracks that reminisced for the sounds of waves crashing along the shores of the beaches of Perth, Methyl Ethel layered their sound so effortlessly, so hypnotically that it felt as if you were transported away in a reflective daze, only to have the silky smooth rhythmic section bring your hips back to live with some exceptionally magnetic grooves. 

This was particularly evident on songs such as ‘Obscura’ and ‘Idée Fixe’, where in a live setting, the bombastic rhythm enhanced the tunes with an emphatic flair.

For all this, Methyl Ethel’s strongest drawcard lies in Webb’s vocal ability. With expansive range and a unique drawl, Webb can hold the audience's attention with his voice alone. Throw in his crafty guitar work, full of sparkling jazz chords, and the audience is like putty in his hands.

When the band moved into hit song and Lucifer’s Monocle favourite ‘Twilight Driving’ (with a very brief cover of Kansas' song ‘Dust in the Wind’), the crowd responded instantly and sang along to every word. The inclusion of the saxophonist gave the performance an added dimension, a dimension that I hope the group continues to include.

As the band finished their set and exited in no frills fashion, it was clear that Methyl Ethel's appeal rest on the fact their whole aesthetic is just simply charming. Even though the absence of their Justin Timberlake cover left me crying a river, it was a thoroughly impressive showing from a group who is dripping in hype. Methyl Ethel is certainly a group that you will be hearing more of in the not too distant future. 

Alex Capper, once affectionally called by Ross & John of 3AW as the '7 foot fucker', loves the Essendon Football Club, stalking reddit and dabbing. He thinks he can speak French, but he can't.