Off the bat, Triage is an album that you do not want to sleep on. It is an incredible showcase of a band that knows how to expand and grow upon what they have provided in the past, creating an incredibly balanced and assured record. Triage will challenge listeners with it’s diverse range of tracks and stylistic sound choices, but it will also draw them in with it’s psych-funk grooves and dark undertones, making for a truly unique listening experience.
From beginning to end the album is oozing with a confidence that has only built up over time with Methyl Ethel. Opener, Ruiner sees lead singer/main creator Jake Webb frolic over a throbbing bassline with his instantly recognisable vocals harmonising the backing “oooh—ooohs” and then entering the front to provide the driving lyrics “Ruiner, ruiner, that’s not good enough”. Assured in his ability to sing in a higher key his voice is astounding. Complimenting Webb’s vocals is the haunting atmosphere created in Ruiner through it’s organ like piano, and thumping guitars, simply teasing at what is to come.
Lead single Scream Whole follows, opening with a similar organ structure and a brooding bass line that is every bit as intoxicating as the level of production and shine on this track. It has to be noted that the breakdown and eventual crescendo of this song makes for what is one of Methyl Ethel’s finest tracks. The sudden halt of the beat into the backing keys as Webb swoons over “I can feel it in the rest of me, a part of what appears to be more than just the taste of my tongue” is masterful. It all comes to a head when a slow build kicks into a drum fill as the bass enters back in and Webb shrieks the same verse over and over again.
Following the stunning form of the opening two tracks we have All The Elements, a visceral display of production talent in the use of the bass and guitar, playing seamlessly off one another. Lyrically Webb continues his storytelling techniques about broken relationships, “I seem to make apologies more often than twice, and now you’re all choked up tight”. This story builds along with the rolling beat “still we make apologies so simple to forget, and though your eyes are all still wet, You’re smiling in the bedroom, patiently waiting”. For a track so rich in style and production, it does make for a heartbreaking tale of a failing relationship.
The album follows this similar form of grandeur production accompanied by tragic stories, and it does not skip a beat. The overall production style remains consistent throughout the album and can be challenging to really divulge in to, but it is always sweetened by the masterful basslines provided. In tracks like Tripping The Mains, Post-Blue and Hip Horror where synths and guitar rhythm’s are of the more obscure alongside Webb’s haunting and echoey vocals, it is the basslines that draw you in. Whether it be the constant slapping in Tripping The Mains, the thick throbbing in Post-Blue, or the down right groove provided in Real Tight, these basslines are consistently textured and seduce you in their respective tracks.
The album follows this similar form of grandeur production accompanied by tragic stories as time wears on, and it does not skip a beat.
These three tracks especially outline the beauty in Triage’s ability to have each song feel like a unique experience whilst maintaining a consistent tone and feel. Trip The Mains has some 80’s synth elements within it’s funk hooks, Post-Blue is a much darker and deeper track complimented by it’s haunting atmosphere and slow drum and snare beat. Real Tight has a much more driving bassline and slinky guitars parallel to the neat hand-claps that make for a stunning track progression. Real Tight has Webb swooning “I know you’ll get to sleep tonight, I can’t feel right, without you by my side” sharing the lighter and warmer side of a relationship, giving the song a much more optimistic style than its counterparts.
The darker vibes colliding with funk elements does often work, yet at times can miss the mark, with Hip Horror being one of those tracks that hasn’t entirely captivated me. Whilst I can appreciate the stunning piano lay-out, it does feel like a bloated track with a lot of tonal shifts and sounds flying around. Webb’s vocals are impressive, yet it feels like an attempt to make another dark-funk track like Le'Heure des-Sorcieres from their previous album but it comes off second best.
This lull is short lived when What About The 37 comes around, with Webb’s melodies running alongside the head-bopping bassline effortlessly, coming together so tightly when a saxophone bursts into the outro. It is a beautifully laid out track and a slight deviation from the overall sound the album has, yet it works incredibly well as a slow-burner. Closing the album is the bold and heavy No Fighting, which is a gripping experience from start to finish. Opening to Webb’s crying vocals over the top of some spacey synths, a real energy is thrust into the track as the synth grows and yet another foot-stomping bassline is added amongst some snappy snares and kicks. This song has a large amount of confidence in it’s ability to showcase all levels of instrumentation blending so well together. It is the fitting finale to what is such a consistent and assured album, aided by it’s mixture of a range musical elements within its tracklist.
Triage is the result of a band that has discovered the sound and flow that works, and tweaking it until it is just right. What Methyl Ethel’s previous album Everything Is Forgotten did was essentially open up a whole bunch of avenues for brainchild Jake Webb to discover. Everything Is Forgotten is what started this obsession with captivating vibes and driving basslines, Triage has refined that sound and almost perfected it, bettering the overall album experience. It still does have it’s quirky moments and sound structures that are straight from the left-of-field, yet when given time they grow on you and are essential to the album’s personality. Triage is a phenomenal album, one that I hope stamps Methyl Ethel as a class act in Australian music. 4.5/5