Spooky psychedelic rock from Perth
Oh look, a psychedelic rock band from Perth who began life as their frontman’s home recording project before being fleshed out into a live outfit and making waves on the Australian rock scene. Sound familiar? Methyl Ethel’s city of origin and taste for lightly trippy textures could have easily left them and their dreamy but diffident debut album ‘Oh Inhuman Spectacle’ in Tame Impala’s shadow forever. Their second, however, goes some way towards carving their own niche.
Indie fixer James Ford is on production duties, giving a much-needed boost to the rhythmic drive of these songs. The juddering synths and tangy guitar licks of ‘Drink Wine’ make a beguiling lead-in to a record that balances rich, introspective languor with irresistible beats. ‘Ubu’’s night-funk has a touch of the Hall & Oates, nervy guitar slinking up against a low-key groove and frontman Jake Webb’s nagging “Why’d you have to go and cut your hair?” refrain all kept moving forward by the drums.
‘Everything Is Forgotten’ is at its best when it pairs that kind of darkly danceable purpose with Ethel’s strongest suit – their spookiness. The taut and sensual ‘L’Heure Des Sorcières’, for example, sets nagging, circling loops and low, fizzing and rumbling synths against Webb’s rich, androgynous vocal at its most gorgeous, “I am an actor baby, fully formed / I can’t start again”. Almost as good is the infectiously twitchy, playfully slinky ‘Hyakki Yako’, named for a parade of spirits in Japanese folklore. “I’m dissolving” moans Webb, a wicked witch melting into a pool of polyrhythms.
Other tracks, such as ‘No 28’, with its nicely choppy riffs, and the gently eerie ‘Act Of Contrition’, contrast the heady high points with Webb’s skill for subtle, classic songwriting dressed in psych’s clothing. Sadly, towards the close the balance is lost and the fine-but-inessential ‘Summer Moon’, ‘Weeds Through The Rind’ and ‘Schlager’ end things on a weak note. A shame, but if Methyl Ethel can build on the best bits here we might be looking at a band to really remember on album number three.