Posted by: Jamie McMillin
It’s been a little under two years since Methyl Ethel’s last time in Chicago and their headlining set at the Empty Bottle in April of 2017. It’s also been about two and a half years since I saw them open for Preoccupations at Thalia Hall in October of 2016, and at the time I didn’t know anything about the group. That show sparked my love for the Australian indie rock group, so it meant a lot to me seeing Jake Webb, who wrote, performed and produced all of the music on their newest album Triage (released February 15th via 4AD), sporting his Thalia Hall socks to their most recent show in Chicago at Schubas.
The live lineup of Methyl Ethel consists of Weber (guitar, vocals), Thom Stewart (bass, keys, backing vocals) Chris Wright (drums), Jacob Diamond (guitar) and Lyndon Blue (bass, keys). This show started as all exciting shows do, with a 15 minute delay. Something was wrong with the sound and Wright wasn’t getting any sound in his earpiece. It seemed like this got the band started off on the wrong foot, as their energy was shy for the first couple of songs. That’s not to say these first two performances weren’t impactful: the first song the band played, “Ruiner,” is one of Methyl Ethel’s more cacophonous songs, and that clash of sounds certainly translates well into a live performance. After being bolstered by cheers from the crowd, the Webb and company loosened up, and the energy in the room lightened up considerably.
The setlist was about evenly split between songs from Triage and the group’s sophomore LP Everything Is Forgotten, with only one track from their debut, interestingly omitting one of their biggest hits “Twilight Driving.” Even without said track, the group proved their ability to make people dance, relying mostly on the more danceable songs in their discography and benefitting immensely from Blue’s tight bass lines. Despite the groovier nature of these songs, it would be easy to imagine the dense soundscapes on the studio cuts to being lost in a live setting. Surprisingly, these remained intact throughout the night, maintaining the group’s alien and gothic aesthetics. The group did a wonderful job at balancing the fun and more atmospheric aspects of their music. Even if they don’t manage dig a little deeper into their earlier catalog the next time they come around, I’ll be looking forward to another chance to catch Methyl Ethel.
Triage is out now, available on all streaming services.