The Old Blue Last – May 23rd
Since the UK release of their debut album in February, Methyl Ethel have been eagerly compared to their hometown friends Tame Impala. Like Tame Impala, the trio hails from Perth, Australia; like Tame Impala front man Jake Webb is the sole creative force behind their music; and like Tame Impala, Methyl Ethel were shortlisted for the 2015 Australian Music Prize. But, for all the obvious comparisons, there’s a vast difference between what Jake Webb and Kevin Parker do, and this is never more apparent than when Methyl Ethel perform live.
Under the permanent blue stage light of the Old Blue Last this evening, Methyl Ethel’s melodies shimmer and warp like sunlight on water, or perhaps it would be better to say like memories of sunlight on water. The heat and haze of Perth summers are present in the riffs of songs like ‘Rogues’, but Jake Webb’s dream-like lyrical style carries with it a feeling of happiness recalled rather than experienced directly.
There’s a jovial restlessness to Webb’s stage presence throughout the set; leaning against the wall during opener ‘Shadowboxing’, he remains hidden behind a speaker until the first verse pulls him into view. Later on, during the intro to ‘Unbalancing Acts’, he lifts the guitar to his teeth, mock-Hendrix style, smirking at band mates Chris Wright and Thom Stuart after doing so. And, even when things go awry and the bass amp cuts out, there’s a playful rage to Webb that continues undeterred: “sometimes the ‘made-in-Australia’ just lets you down!”
In a recent interview, Webb stated that it’s his band mates who keep him grounded on tour, and this sense of union is visible on stage. The trio wade through the tracks of their debut Oh Inhuman Experience with an intuitive ease, and at times it feels as if we are privy to a bedroom jam rather than live performance.
Although the mix out front this evening is particularly bass heavy, it lends itself well to the pulsing snarl of tracks like ‘Also Gelleshcaft’. Every song packs a punch, however, and the band close with a powerful version of ‘Logatto Romagnolo’, a track from early EP Teeth. “Forget your name, forget your name”, an opening lines rings out, serving as a fitting final reminder for anyone eager to label Methyl Ethel as little more than an amalgamation of the bands they compare them to.
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