Methyl Ethel – Everything Is Forgotten
Jake Webb’s 2015 self-recorded and prize-winning debut, Oh Inhuman Spectacle, may have been patchy, but its highlights were, in fairness, very high indeed. A peculiarly polyrhythmic collection of dream-pop that recalled, in parts, someone like Youth Lagoon, it demonstrated an advanced – if budget – understanding of song-craft that Webb again puts to good use on its follow-up, Everything Is Forgotten. With a bigger budget, Webb has truly upped his game to deliver bigger songs, funky basslines and multi-tracked vocals resulting in a danceable and fun album of pure pop.
Despite operating under the feminine identity of Methyl Ethel (a distortion of the methyl ethyl ketone peroxide used by his father in the production of fibre glass), Webb continues with his purposefully “genderless” performance and it allows him to exploit two sides of the same coin at once. Growing up on a diet of “doo-wop, the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Del Shannon, the Beach Boys,” Webb writes his FM arrangements – regardless of the provenance of their influence – in “the old way”, nevertheless playing “with the form, to try and push the boundaries.” While this enthusiasm to experiment sets him apart, its led him Oh Inhuman Spectacle to both glorious psych-pop statements and over-cooked inconsistency, and again on Everything Is Forgotten from giddy singles to – ironically enough, given the album’s title – less memorable filler, particularly during its latter exchanges.
A resolutely solo artist (only the drums on the lush opening track and the album’s keys as a whole are played by outsiders), there are very few people to tell Webb no. Consequently his productivity is high (reputedly 75% of the next album is already demoed), but the quality of it sometimes suffers. The album closer, “Schlager”, is knowingly named after the German term for “terrible pop music”, however, so you get the impression that despite all its similarly highbrow references to absurdist French drama (“Ubu”) and Japanese folklore (“Hyakki Yakō”), Webb is an artist currently less concerned by the consistent brilliance of his art and more by the volume of it in that he is seemingly unable to turn it off. That said, for now, the good continues to outweigh the indifferent.
Best track: “Ubu”
~Everything Is Forgotten is released March 3rd 2017 via 4AD.~