The Big Issue : Edition 580
MUSIC 40 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 8–21 FEB 2019 Methyl Ethel was born as a four-track recording project for Jake Webb, who rolled tape on their formative jams at a holiday house in tiny Quedjinup, Western Australia. In the years since — with the release of Oh Inhuman Spectacle (2015) and Ever ything Is Forgotten (2017) — Methyl Ethel have gone from isolationism to five-piece festival act. Webb remains the sole creative figure, making albums in “self-imposed exile”. But his songs have grown bigger, brighter, built for filling large spaces. The third Methyl Ethel LP, in turn, marries expansive sounds — airy melodies, propulsive basslines, synths that rise skywards — with an insular logic, Webb both reaching out to the world and burrowing deeper into the self. His great gift remains finding the sweet spot in the middle: blessing psychedelic songs with bubblegum melodies, and contorting lyrical mouthfuls (“I can feel it in the rest of me/a part of what appears to be/more than just a taste on my tongue”) into singalong earworms. ANTHONY CAREW TRIAGE METHYL ETHEL Listening to Girlpool’s albums in succession feels like watching someone else grow up. The LA duo’s third LP feels light years away from the bratty high-school stylings of their 2015 debut, and it’s a further evolution from the lo-fi fuzz on follow-up Powerplant (2017). The most obvious change: since the last release, Cleo Tucker has undergone a gender transition. The result is a much lower vocal register that adds depth to the pair’s harmonies. While the short, sharp pop numbers and acoustic interludes that have typified past releases are here, it’s the more experimental moments where What Chaos... shines. The atmospheric ‘Chemical Freeze’ and the title track, drenched with sumptuous strings, pounding drums and synths, show the band’s bold new direction, channeling bands like Slowdive while moving languidly as though through a dream. This record captures the many faces of two ever-changing musicians. It’s an exciting, unpredictable album that heralds a new era in Girlpool’s fascinating career. GISELLE AU-NHIEN NGUYEN WHAT CHAOS IS IMAGINARY GIRLPOOL I’VE SPENT THE summer reading a stack of books I was given for Christmas, one of which is Sylvia Patterson’s 2016 memoir about her life as a music journo. Written in Patterson’s playful and at times discombobulating style – honed during her early years on staff at Smash Hits – I’m Not With the Band: A Writer’s Life Lost in Music is the story of how Patterson navigated the music industry during the halcyon days of British music/music journalism. In addition to giving a potted history of her personal life – from working-class Scot to hard-partying Londoner – she shares stories of her encounters with everyone from up-and-coming indie hopefuls to the likes of Mariah Carey and Prince. The anecdotes of these encounters are always funny and occasionally quite moving, Patterson’s inimitable style gifting us an insight into what it feels like to not only sit opposite Kabbalah-era Madonna, but also what it feels like when it’s your job to make sure Madonna talks about more than just Kabbalah. It made me look back and wince at some of my own encounters talking to musical heroes, and the disappointment you feel when things don’t come off perfectly (like the time I nearly passed out from heat exhaustion interviewing PJ Harvey) or when interviews surpass your expectations (like Faith No More’s Mike Patton actually being a polite human being). It also reminded me of how extraordinary getting to do any of this for a living really is. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor “Don’t go fallin’ apart,” murmurs Martin Frawley at the start of ‘You Can’t Win’. It’s one of many lyrics on his debut solo album that plays like therapeutic advice to himself. The Melbourne singer/songwriter is best known for leading the indie rock quartet Twerps with his now ex-girlfriend, Julia McFarlane. Unabashedly a breakup record, Undone at 31 retains some of Twerps’ slouching, shrugged-of f cool, but diversifies Frawley’s sound via some soft country ramble and power pop. There are slices of autobiography, while the ambitious folk ballad ‘You Want Me?’ guides us through the emotional arc of Frawley’s adult life. If the subject matter is all too specific, it’s still relatable: ‘Something About Me’ is a gorgeous hymn to growth, and ‘Come Home’ pays warm tribute to the family unit. Low-key on their own, together these songs build on each other to nurture a well-rounded narrative that proves quietly profound. DOUG WALLEN UNDONE AT 31 MARTIN FRAWLEY CD DOWNLOAD CASSETTE VINYL THAT’S PJ HARVEY.