Reviewed by: Molly Schmidt
If Methyl Ethel’s new album Oh Inhuman Spectacle were in fact, a human, the so-called human would be a very interesting species indeed. With the wide-eyed, round glasses of indie-pop, and the tattooed sleeves of something a little heavier, our non gender specific wildebeest would wear some sort of floral bandanna in his/her cropped and lightly pink tipped hair. This inhuman human would gaze at the stars whilst chewing his/her lip and humming along to the Doctor Who soundtrack.
Singer songwriter Jake Webb’s voice glides through the album with a haunting fragility and powerful vocal range, that at times sounds delicately effeminate. His voice changes so vastly that is sounds like the album features two lead vocalists, transitioning from sweet and painful crooning, to a more masculine, rock-pop tone similar to that of Arcade Fire. Described as an “outlet for his adventures in reverb soaked home recording,” Jake Webb’s Oh Inhuman Spectacle is an eclectic mix of classic past styles and futuristic experiments, taking you on a journey that is as vast as it is wonderfully strange.
Tracks such as ‘Rogues’ are cool and cruisy, with drifting melodies sliding over a surfy guitar sound similar to that of nineties band R. E. M. This song sounds like summer with wandering melodies and a cheerful yet longing feel. It was stuck in my head for days after listening to the album. Catchy lyrics tell poignant and relatable stories, with language that is so abstract and yet poetic, I am reminded of avante garde poetry.
Luckily, if this sound isn’t for you, the album is so diverse you are sure to find a track that you dig. Track four, ‘To Swim’ was a personal favourite of mine, with beautiful harmonies echoing over synth that seemed to ripple through the short and dreamy song. The echoing, ambient sound reminded me of Cloud Control’s ‘Scream Rave’ sounding like it too, was recorded in a cave.
‘Sweet Waste’ nicely captures a feeling that seems to run through the whole album—a brooding darkness that is hidden under light melodies. “Late last September, I didn’t know what to do. I was reading poetry and mixing up the lethal brew. You didn’t notice, I even drank it too.” The sweet and sharp lyrics carry both beauty and pain.
Some of the tracks get a little whiney, reminding me of Lana Del Rey’s more dramatic songs, but in all, Jake Webb should be hi-fived energetically for his diverse style and vocal range. All falsetto gets a little wearing at times, but the man pulls it off pretty damn well (especially for a man!).
This is an album to listen to when you don’t know quite how you feel, featuring instruments and sounds varying from an African sounding flute, classic indie-pop guitar, to recordings of what sounds like backyard conversation. The songs carry a common theme of at times sounding cheerful but eerily feeling as if something is not quite right. The band, made up of Jake Webb as songwriter, guitar and vocals, Chris Wright on drums and Thom Stewart on bass, work well together to produce a tight and crisp sounding album, that is as surprising and colourful as a mixed lolly bag.