Album Review: Methyl Ethel - 'Are You Haunted'
Updated: May 4
When I receive an album from Michael La Torre (Founder of Alt Revue), to review, I give it a quick listen, and step away to let it settle into my thoughts. Some albums, like Brijean’s Feelings, arrive months before the release date, so I can listen to it over and over. Some I get just days in advance, and I do not have enough time to think; I just have to react. Yet some sit in that in between, where I have enough time to give it a couple of good listens. Methyl Ethyl’s Are You Haunted happens to be one of those.
Received in early January and gave it a couple of listens. Somehow, I seemed to recognize some of the songs, or at least the sounds. In fact, I think “Neon Cheap” popped up in some of my playlists and continues to do so. However, I had other album reviews to work on, a couple of rescue dog stories for a coffee book collaboration to write and rewrite, Syd R Tuh to continue to explore, and a significant revision of Mark & His Big F’n Truck to think about. Methyl Ethyl had to be added to the middle of my To-Do list.
However, I kept mentally checking in with it over the last month. It’s on my Groove Music app, so I gave it a listen while working on Syd R Tuh or while paying my bills. Yet, as the deadline got closer, I thought, how the hell am I going to write about this album?
It is the middle of February. As I write this review, I can see snow on my neighbor’s roof. The Weather Channel says it is 12°F outside. Yet, this is a summer release for the Australian band Methyl Ethyl. However, not every album has to be attributed to the season that it is released. Especially not for an Art Rock Band. Their music and lyrics are full of layers, concepts, and emotions. Sometimes that makes the songs on this album heavy and dramatic. Not necessarily what I would call a summer album.
So, as I sit here, listening to Are You Haunted? for probably at least the tenth time, I realize that my mind is beginning to unfold some of the layers. Yet, the music is complicated, sometimes juxtaposing the lyrics and sometimes so layered that I find an entirely new circuit of emotions and ideas. Listen to the change in “Ghosting.” What begins like a theater piece, a singer’s solo on stage, turns at the two-minute mark into a proper, building, alt rock, art rock album introducing song. Or “Kids on Holiday.” Or “One and Beat.” Or my favorite, “Castigat Ridendo Mores.”
Look at the audio equalizer bars. You can visually see the changes. Not one of the songs follows the same pattern as another, and the changes are as unique as each song.
But let’s talk about the title of my favorite song on the album, “Castigat Redendo Mores.” It is Latin for laughing corrects morals. Although I have listened to this album more than ten times, I have only grazed its meaning. Are they singing to an individual, or is this social commentary? Or both? And how can I delve into the weight of bringing Latin into this album in a short review? It’s like wrapping up the importance of Radiohead’s Kid A in a thousand words. Critics always speak about the bands’ social commentary. Still, all I ever hear is Thom Yorke singing to his former wife, ordinary individual relationships hidden under the metaphor of large epic ideas. Now, I am not saying that Are You Haunted? is doing what Kid A did. No. I am stating that it is as layered and as successfully produced as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Damn. I really went there. However, before I exit this review, I want to write something concrete and important.
I wrote this before I went to work and contacted Michael to let him know I would send it tonight. Chatting with a co-worker, I told him about this album. “It’s difficult to say who the audience will be. Its flavor is like going to the grocery and finding a new, exotic fruit. Taking it home is a gamble. However, if you are a fruit lover, it’s about trying something different, and that first bite is interesting. It excites the taste buds; The tang tickles the throat, yet you cannot decide if it is something you like.
“Well, I say, ‘Take another bite. Let it sit with you. You will find the layers, some alien and some very familiar.’
“If you are overwhelmed by one listen, I say, ‘That is good.’ It could be the power of Jake Webb’s voice, the lyrics, or the layers of emotional inducing sounds. For the last two years, our entire reality has been consumed by the Pandemic, and that has been truly overwhelming. Let Are You Haunted? be overwhelming because we can revel in the controlled release of those intense emotions.”
Final Thoughts: I am not sure if it is me or what. However, the music albums I’ve received this year are extremely impressive. It could be that I need to hear greatness. But I will also not allow my ego to be that large. Musicians are creating some of the most incredible music the world has ever known. What a time to be alive and be a music fan.
Favorite Songs: “Something to Worry About,” “Neon Cheap,” and “Castigat Ridendo Mores.”
Rating - 5/5 (Yes. This is for real. It is happening.)