Only three years since the release of their first EP, Methyl Ethel have grown a well-deserved reputation for their incredible live performances and masterful songwriting, mostly by lead vocalist and guitarist Jake Webb.
At The Croxton Bandroom on Thursday, it appears that this Perth band have brought a touch of home with them for this headline tour with WA based support bands and sound engineer. This is their biggest Melbourne headline show so far and it’s to promote their sophomore album release, Everything is Forgotten which has been released internationally by the UK based independent heavyweight 4AD.
The smattering of punters that were in the band room for the support act Childsaint looked especially dismal in the cavernous space. Yet the four-piece delivered a tight and impressive performance which showcased skillful instrumental performances as well as a commanding stage presence. After a slow start, the songs pick up the moment the members begin to harmonise leading to captivating vocal interplays. Their set alternates between lighter dreamy vibes and darker post-punk inspired rock delivered on a bed of slow guitar drones and bass drum rumbles.
After such an impressive and well-matched first act, Kuzich as the second support is a curious one who didn’t quite fit the bill. Although his textured downtempo hip hop may have been relatively distinctive, it dramatically divided the crowd into those who liked that style and those who came for the guitar-based music. Despite some decent grooves and diverse samples, Kuzich also struggled to maintain an engaging stage presence. An issue that was not aided by poor mixing leading to no nuance in the arrangement was swamped by incredibly loud bass sounds.
The inconsistencies in sound production quality were smoothed out in time for Methyl Ethel’s appearance, who sounded phenomenal. Dramatic lighting paired with the rousing intro of ‘Drink Wine,’ introduced what would prove to be a mesmerising performance worthy of a stadium setting. The setlist was dominated by tracks from their most recent album with the notable highlights of ‘No. 28’ and ‘Femme Maison/One Man House.’ It was great to see less well-known tracks such as ‘Hyakki Yako’ get a look in, increasing the awareness of these less publicised songs on the second half of the album.
Despite sparse banter, Webb shows an appreciation for the crowd as he dedicated ‘Rogues’ (one of my personal favourites) to the Melbourne audience, saying that they were some of the first to support this track. As the set progressed, Methyl Ethel warmed up noticeably with ‘Shadowboxing’ from Oh Inhuman Spectacle, creating a high energy rock interlude mid-set and instrumental segments between tracks avoided what could have been a parade of hit tunes. As a fan of the ambient instrumental sonic explorations on the b-side of Oh Inhuman Spectacle, I was particularly impressed by the dark and frantic jam at the end of ‘No. 28.’ The dichotomy of this and the bright catchy tone and crowd singalong during ‘Midnight Driving’ which followed, illustrates that the band is perhaps caught between more experimental sensibilities and success won by strong radio-friendly tracks.
With no break to give the illusion of an encore, crowd pleaser ‘Ubu’ closed their set on a high note with the much of the crowd dancing and singing along. Performances like this explain Methyl Ethel’s steady rise in popularity and cement their status as one of Australia’s most promising bands currently.