Methyl Ethel - 'Hurts To Laugh' Review
Updated: May 22
By Georgia Edwards
When I think of Methyl Ethel, I think of 2017. Their sophomore album had just been released and “why’d you have to go and cut your hair?” was ringing in my ears all summer. ‘Ubu’ is undoubtedly their best single. But three years have passed, and I can’t help but wonder whether they have become stranded somewhere between the psychedelia of MGMTand the dreamy soft rock of Tame Impala. Always being eclipsed of the spotlight by fellow indie sensation Kevin Parker, also from Perth Australia, can be seen as a daunting challenge to overcome. However, Methyl Ethel are demonstrating growth away from the pseudo-spiritual lamenting of neo-psychedelia and testing some unchartered waters.
Consisting of only five tracks and dropping only a year since the release of their third studio album, many could mistake ‘Hurts To Laugh’ as a miscellanea of offcuts, songs that felt incongruous with other albums. But it does feel like a complete stand-alone piece; an ode to a deep personal pain that tremors throughout that Jake Webb, the multi-instrumentalist and producer of the band, rarely shows. In this way, Methyl Ethel’s latest EP does show variety.
The first track ‘Majestic AF’ feels raw and guttural. Webb creates an image of someone full of regret and worthlessness, toying with the perspective between ‘you’ and ‘I’.
Like the title suggests, this EP shows why it really does hurt to laugh. Or maybe the only way to deal with the hurt, is to laugh.
Accompanied by Webb’s characteristically strained vocals, which feel expressively pained in this EP, the vaudeville-like introduction to ‘Honest’ adds an unsettling sense of irony, even foreboding, to the track. With the same sense of despair lyrically, the idea of ‘hurts to laugh’ changes course. As Methyl Ethel’s previous song titles have been given historical French significance (‘Ubu’ is named after a French nineteenth century play), one could wonder whether they used this, also French, theatrically light-hearted form of theatre in their music.
‘What Memory Found’ sounds like it would be the final track in a trashy indie movie to add a layer of nostalgia. In no regards meant as an insult, the neo-trance like undertone feels refreshing after some rather lyrically heavy songs and, after listening to it more than once, feels like that nostalgia becomes part of your own memory.
Despite their re-emergence just in time for the warmer months, ‘Hurts To Laugh’ will not be a regular on many summer playlists. While this EP may not be your hedonistic background music while you sunbathe, they do make you feel something. It is slightly discomforting, but good music does that sometimes. Despite knowing it will not be one of Methyl Ethel’s most celebrated albums, their candour and vulnerability makes it a small, rebellious success. Methyl Ethel have shown experimentation in what are undoubtedly quite stagnant times. And simply for that addition, I am grateful.
Listen to the album here: