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Offering an album that is by turns gorgeously weird and enjoyably uneasy, Oh Inhumane Spectacle is one of the most original, bizarre and brilliant pop offerings to come out of Australia this year.
While there is no denying the avant garde heart of Methyl Ethel and their experimental leanings, the genius in their work is how vast the compass of their music can be. The soundscapes of their songs move between the dark, oceanic guitars of the Sisters of Mercy, the garage-band pop angst of Silversun Pickups and Eisley, through to the misfit moments present on any Modest Mouse record.
Methyl Ethel is the Frankenstein of indie pop on their debut Oh Inhumane Spectacle, a spinning, experimental piece of modern pop genius.
Vocally, Jake Webb’s voice is a revelation; at times entirely androgynous or outright effeminate, through to the more brooding, flinching, hurt sounds of a man in distress or longing. Provocative and bearing similarities to Arcade Fire, The Veils, Fire on Fire and even Sleater Kinney. Again, I say, this compass spins across various moods, styles and effects and does so seamlessly. What other band can touch on all these likenesses and genres and not sound whack?
Methyl Ethel is the Frankenstein of indie pop, a fascinating monster that is brought to life beautifully on Oh Inhumane Spectacle, and such an analogy befits the title. Not only a formidable break-through for a relatively young band, but finely produced, managing to capture all the nuances built carefully across every single track. This loans even more quality to the album’s presence, of which it has miles of.
There is an inherent playfulness that comes with an experimental heart, yet there is much discomfort and sadness throughout the songs that all end with the final track, Everything As It Should Be, which creeps along seeming to bring together the many threads presented throughout the fall below and makes for a sublime epilogue. This offering, by way of one boy’s brain in his bedroom, and only one year young, is utterly astounding. Between the strange poetry and the musical quirkiness, they are inhabiting a very specific place, and while you may never have the mystery answered, the constant guessing is part of the allure and the enjoyment.
While the record wanders and explores without inhibition, it is not aimless and has a true pop sensibility in that it’s very listenable. No two songs sound the same, which is part of the appeal and as the album goes on and, frankly, makes the journey terribly exciting. Each track manages to have a distinct sound, yet carries it through very different songs successfully. It isn’t easy to do so, especially on a debut album.
Besides the circus of melodies, I must emphasize this band houses one of the most unusual, heart-rending, spine-tingling voices I have heard out of Australia in a long time, and when I learned that they hailed from Perth, it kind of made sense. I used to be madly in love with an endearingly oddball band called Snowman, and looking back at them and that time (2005) I recall that Perth was a particularly fertile place for indie-pop that was doing very different things.
This has stretched on into the present, with bands like Tame Impala, Birds of Tokyo, Little Birdy, and of course, Aussies heroes like Johnny Diesel, the Waifs and Baby Animals. Happily, Methyl Ethyl have joined this pedigree, as recognised by San Cisco who hand selected them to join them on tour.
Oh Inhumane Spectacle is a renaissance on a lot of the eccentric and wonderful music coming out of Western Australia around 2005 and even in the last couple of years, yet builds on this heritage by adding something to the dialogue. Indie music is not dead, experimentalism can work if the music and lyrics are well realised and not taken too seriously, and Perth has delivered another nova addition to the indie-pop cannon. An album to get lost in, again and again. This is a rabbit hole, and you might just want to linger a while.
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