written by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
The fourth album from Methyl Ethel sees a slight shift in direction. Announced in January, it sees the band break from the 4AD label to move to Future Classic, and it sees an elevation for Jake Webb to take a more prominent role of front man, not too dissimilar to Oli Alexander’s way of thinking with Years + Years.
Are You Being Haunted? looks to bring out more of the band’s electronic side, while returning to the studio where they made their first records. This is a significant nod to the passing of a dear friend who Webb recorded with at the time.
What’s the music like?
Smart, chic and extremely enjoyable. There are some excellent songs here, tightly packaged and produced with a knowing hand. Proof is especially good, its winning couplet “What can you see now?” dressed with sweeping strings. “My head is heavy, I’ve had awful dreams!” sings Webb. Something To Worry About is great power pop on a larger scale, strutting its stuff with a stately tread. Kids On Holiday is similarly inspired, with torch song lyrics and occasionally irregular rhythms.
Neon Cheap is if anything even better, making a lasting impression with its sharp couplets and catchy hooks. Matters zips along, showing the strength in depth of the album as it leads onto the epic Castigat Ridendo Mores, which has a wall of sound at the heart of its chorus. Finally In A Minute, Sublime, offers a questioning coda, by turns elegant and powerful.
Does it all work?
Yes – because the Methyl Ethel approach is an ‘all killer, no filler’ variety. The album is a compact design, clocking in at around 40 minutes, and packs plenty of incident and verve into that time.
Is it recommended?
Yes, enthusiastically. The new chapter looks set to be a fruitful one for Methyl Ethel, and with Are You Being Haunted? it is off to an auspicious start.