Review: Methyl Ethel | Plan B, Sydney

Written By Caitlin Burns on 05/02/2016

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Taking the stage at a sold out show at Sydney’s Plan B Small Club, Perth’s latest export looked every bit at home. The success of hit Twilight Driving, coming in at number 97 on the Triple J Hottest 100 2015, has seen the band enjoy a steady stream of success. Signing to a US label, a US tour including shows at SXSW and an up-coming European tour are all signs that front man and mastermind, Jake Webb, is onto a good thing.

They are, however, yet to stray too far from their roots as a small band playing intimate shows in their hometown of Perth. The band members, singer Jake Webb, drummer Chris Wright and bassist Thom Stewart did their own set-up and pack down, reminding us Sydney-siders once again how unpretentious our western cousins are.

Things kicked off with Idée Fixe, the first song off Oh Inhumane Spectacle, followed by a natural progression through the album’s track list. As a live act, the guitar riffs and drum lines are given as much sonic space as Webb’s ethereal vocals. As the set progresses they get the sound turned up higher and higher until it’s reverberating in our chests. The dreamy vibes and high production values of the album are sacrificed somewhat to give the crowd a truly electric experience.

In between each song played a foreboding soundtrack, not unlike the first minute of To Swim. In the moment, Webb is completely committed to the music and the performance, rising up on his toes and leaning into the sounds. In the breaks, however, he jokes with the crowd comfortably, asking if anyone knows the meaning of ‘crepuscular’ (animals that are active primarily at dawn and dusk, by the way).

The increased attention (and, perhaps, pressure) as well as constant comparisons to fellow WA success story, Tame Impala, did not seem to have had any effect on the band members. Up on stage they joked around with each other, Webb ramming his head in Stewart’s chest (who, as a side note, was nearly too tall to fit on the stage) after Stewart attempted to reach over and strum Webb’s guitar strings. International signings aside, these boys still give the impression that they are just friends and roommates who have stumbled upon an incredibly unique sound.

Their biggest hit off the album to date, Twilight Driving, came into the set at about two thirds of the way in. This was the highlight of the night and it was not hard to see the effect it had on the crowd. Bodies began to sway, people turned to sing the lyrics to each other and even the energy on the stage lifted. A saxophonist came out on the stage to perform the signature solo to the crowds delight. As it finished a girl behind me remarked that she was ready to leave, having seen exactly what she had came there for.

She would have been glad she decided to stay as the band closed out the set with Sweet Waste, Everything Is As It Should Be and about 15 minutes of solid psychedelic rock.

Methyl Ethel is on a steady upward trajectory, having signed with producer James Ford for their 4AD debut. Webb has been smart to not lock himself into any one genre, meaning we can expect even more new and diverse material coming from him in the (hopefully) near future. Get ready to watch them blow up.

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