I’m told that methyl ethyl ketone has a “sweet odour reminiscent of butterscotch and acetone.” It’s no surprise, then, that Perth-based muso Jake Webb settled on ‘Methyl Ethel’ as the name for his dreamy indie pop outfit. Methyl Ethel isn’t as much a defined band as it is a musical idea that swirls about Webb - he occupies the role of director, joined on the road by a collection of Perth-based musicians. In a creative sense, Webb embodies the project - he writes the material alone, even self-producing his earlier releases.
‘Everything is Forgotten,’ his second album, finds Webb teaming up with producer James Ford. Ford’s impressive production history (which includes Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons, Florence and the Machine and HAIM) is a testament to Methyl Ethel’s ever-increasing international recognition.
An increased production budget does little to sway Webb from the tentpoles of his success - lo-fi vocal stylings persist, as does his love of reverb-soaked guitars and garage band aesthetics. It’s a tried and true formula for upcoming artists - deliberately sticking to a low effort sound allows musicians to show off their talents without falling prey to technological shortfallings. Whilst the album’s definitely more refined that their debut LP, ‘Oh Inhuman Spectacle,’ it’s steeped in the same sonic bedrock.
Album opener “Drink Wine” is a slice of upbeat pop buoyed by a catchy hook and Webb’s own distinctive falsetto. It’s followed by second single “Ubu,” which is a highlight. The five-minute track is built around a funky refrain - “why’d you have to go and cut your hair?” - over which Webb layers his guitar riffs and verses. The funkiness surprised me. “Ubu,” “Groundswell” and “Drink Wine” are all cut from the same funky cloth, one which Methyl Ethel uses well. “L’Heure des Sorciéres” explores the darker and creepier side of Webb’s talents, distorted bass underpinning the eerie hook. Chant-like repetition only further stresses the scary side of artificiality, with Webb unfeelingly singing “I am an actor, baby.”
Lyrically, the album explores personal relationships in frank terms. There’s very little in the way of floral language - Webb works to make the everyday poetic, propping up standard language with melodies and surrounding it with engaging instrumentation. It pairs well with the indie sound to which he’s firmly committed.
That having been said, the album’s sonic homogeny has a downside - whilst some tracks stand out as stranger cuts, those that don’t fall in the shadow of their better representations. “Schlager,” the album’s closer, is undone by forty minutes of familiarity. “Hyakki Yakõ” and “Act of Contrition” are both oddities which make for interesting listening. The latter of the two is an acoustic guitar-based track that devolves into harsh noise, an example of the distortion with which Webb flirts. Whilst the growing interference is interesting, the rest of the track is an exercise in misplaced eccentricity.
Methyl Ethel’s ‘Everything Is Forgotten’ has very nearly figured out what it is. Whilst he’s willing to hone his indie-pop sensibilities, Webb shows hints of experimentation on tracks such as “Act of Contrition” and “L’Heure des Sorciéres”. Despite attempts to mix things up, it’s a pleasant-yet-slightly forgettable slice of dark pop goodness.
Methyl Ethel will tour Australia in May
Check out their website for details and tickets