Dream pop is less a reflection of dreams and more what we romanticize them as: voyages into the subconscious that open our eyes (even as they’re shut) and give us some kind of a revelation upon waking. In actuality, dreams are typically a whole heap of discontinuous nonsense that are typically most amusing to their originators. If Methyl Ethel’s third album, Triage, can be commended for anything, it’s offering a revisionist take on the genre that more accurately reflects the reality of dreams. Whether that was their intention or if they do it well is a whole ‘nother topic.

To be fair, at this point, the West Perth band isn’t purely dream pop. Debut Oh, Inhuman Spectacle, was entirely performed and recorded by founding member Jake Webb, and it stayed in the lane of tepid Beach House-liteness, not helped by Webb’s vocal proximity to Victoria Legrand. Follow-up Everything Is Forgotten was no slamdunk, but the more energetic and psychy sound indicated they could at least seem a bit less dull as an MGMT-knockoff.

But if anything has plagued Methyl Ethel’s career thus far, it’s that you know where their songs are going pretty much immediately. So much so that listening all the way through can feel like a formality. The good news about Triage is that there are plenty of unexpected detours. The bad news is that unpredictability still needs to have a point. At its best, Triage is boring. At its worst, it feels like it’s staring at you in hopes you can bail it out, all the while wiping flop sweat off its brow.

There’s a germ of a good idea in album opener ‘Ruiner’, which has soul ambitions it just can’t reach. It’s not that Webb isn’t passionate, as he earnestly sings about how he’s “just a child,” or that he doesn’t have ideas, like the whooshing sounds in the bridge. It’s that his ambition and his results are at odds with each other. You can practically hear a better song trying to come out of here, and a written outline that follows the same structure could make it seem like a potential knockout. But a gourmet meal is delicious not because of the ingredients but because of what the chef does with them.

Pretty quickly, though, you’ll be longing for the creative heights of ‘Ruiner’. ‘Scream Whole’ seeks to be the live show moment of triumph, but the sparkly keys, handclaps, and especially inexplicably noisy chorus (complete with unbearable humming) is like watching someone trip over themselves, get back up, then trip again. It all leads into a grand finale of an extended chorus that’s repeated more times than I’m willing to count: “I can feel it in the rest of me/ Part of what appears to be more than just taste on my tongue.” As delivered by Webb and company, it comes across as a vocal warm-up performed by a news anchor before broadcast.

The befuddlement of ‘Scream Whole’ is at least worth discussing. The same can’t be said of the treacly ‘All the Elements’, or the equally insufferable and even more compressed ‘Trip the Mains’ (Sample lyric: “There is a point of no return/ It’s easy to see you slipping away from me”). There’s some kind of calculated attempt at new wave in the performance, but Webb as a narrator is profoundly unappealing, not because he’s complaining (what would music be without woes?), but because he never gives us any sort of connection. The press release for Triage describes it as “a more reflective album than its predecessors.” That might be technically true, but there’s no profundity in Webb’s reflections. If the lyrics of ‘Post Blue’ don’t offer any more depth (“I was alone again, couldn’t see it all”), the song at least has a decent wintry atmosphere and a gratifying drop with a quality chorus thanks to Webb’s soaring delivery of “I’m flying away with from you” and the murmuring synths. It also has a tacked-on trance-like section and no real ending, but points for effort are about all you can give Methyl Ethel at this point.

Though side A is a mess, it at least sounds like a mostly-original mess. On the latter half, they seem to say “fuck it” and just go for plagiarism, in whole or in part. The guitar melody of ‘Real Tight’ is the only redeeming quality, probably because it sounds like it was copied straight of The Cure’s playbook. Final two tracks ‘What About The 37°?’ and ‘No Fighting’ sound the most blatantly like Beach House, with Webb’s delivery on the introduction of the latter being way too similar to ‘Better Times’ for it to be a coincidence, and the former having by far the most revealing lyric by far: “I’m holding onto anything I find.”

You can only give so many passes to a band on the basis of them perhaps eventually getting their ducks in a row before you lose your patience for good. Some more faint praise can be thrown at Triage for how it rejects the mediocrity of its predecessors for a helping of frequently stupefying nonsense, but it’s not even interesting nonsense. It’s the album of your dreams, but not in the right way.