Methyl Ethel are named for one element in particular, a colorless, aromatic organic compound used in industrial solvents. But a whole bunch of elements—all of them, to be exact—find their way onto the successful Aussie band’s third record. Searing electric chords permeate the sparkling solution that is “All The Elements,” one of the best songs on the album, a winding response to a pesky, poking subconscious. “There’s something in my head, but I can’t get it out,” frontman Jake Webb sings. “It’s all about nothing in the end.” Triage is the colorful, clanging review of Webb’s antsy psyche, full of perfectly fine dance tunes, but as on “All The Elements,” the album’s different, competing parts don’t add up to much in the end.
Webb and co. have released two albums in the last three years, both of which walk the line between pop and radio rock. Triage, which he wrote, produced and recorded in his home studio, is Methyl Ethel’s hookiest work yet, even if those hooks feel vaguely familiar. There are a lot of bands out there claiming to be synth-pop, or some kind of resurgence of ‘80s new wave. Much of it is just noise, but Methyl Ethel’s Triage is mostly the good kind of noise, a nicely arranged freshening on the tropey, resurging “synth-rock” that dominates the press releases in my inbox. Though it at times sounds like the ringing in your ears, Triage’s biggest asset might be its danceability. A few of the songs, like “Ruiner,” “Trip the Mains” and “Real Tight” have the makings of dance-pop hits, even if they sound more like recycled MGMT songs than original bops.
“Ruiner” is a toe-tapping opening number about a deadly crush. It’s not nearly the cathartic heartache of a Robyn tune, but it’s still the kind of thing you could bounce to in a club as you try to forget about your latest infatuation. The funky techno squiggles will make your head spin. “Scream Whole,” a single from late last year, isn’t as emotionally charged, though it’s also super catchy. Even with its loud title, “Scream Whole” just doesn’t say much as Webb repeatedly asks “What’s the point?” A few songs later, “Post Blue,” a train of swirling post-Currents existentialist drab, is also lyrically forgettable.
“Trip the Mains” is a groovy centerpiece. It bulges with fuzz and heat, like a disco experiment gone electro. Webb switches off between two verses (“I got a voltage that’s running high / And I can barely close my eyes” and “I got a fever that’s running high / And I know I’m missing you a lot”), which each find their own way to express hot-burning desire. It’s the album’s peppy pop triumph.
Triage is full of fun, catchy melodies that waste no time grabbing your attention. Fans of 2010s indie pop bands like Foster the People will eat this by the spoonful. Webb is an Aussie pop prince and a keen producer, and this album, even if it occasionally slips into lyrical drab, sounds like the career-honoring record he needed to make.