Dramatically named, Oh Inhuman Spectacle is the full debut release from the Western Australian act known as Methyl Ethel and is likely to be one of the best albums to go unnoticed this year. Though this isn’t the Jake Webb’s first record under the name of Methyl Ethel to have been released – there’s already two EPs and a single under the belt – this is the first full length album and is composed of a medley of psych rock songs that are understated, composed and simultaneously erratic. You could be forgiven for thinking that Oh Inhuman Spectacle is a new record from Webb’s NZ cousins, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, as it has the similar feel of oddrock, but based on this record Methyl Ethel deserve to be known in their own right.
As soon as the album starts up, you’re launched into one of the better songs, Idée Fixe, which really sets the tone for the rest of the record. Opening with a slightly wobbly guitar before restrained voices soothe the song, it soon moves into a groove that underlines the little known quality of this group. Following in that vein is Shadowboxing, a song that has a slight anthemic quality to it, one of those songs that you can imagine a band must love playing live because at its peak they can just lose themselves as they thrash it out.
If there’s one song that deserves your attention though, it’s Twilight Driving. Caught perfectly in the middle between psych rock and pop noise this is a song that worm its way into your attention, keeping itself there as you struggle to want to listen to anything else – reminiscent of something from the 1980s era of pop music, this song is something special.
To see that there’s hardly any coverage of this album on the internet other than the odd piece commenting on what frontman Jake Webb used to be involved with is odd to say the least, as this type of music normally provokes a genuine reaction the musical hipster community. In that case, enjoy this for the moment as it continues to fly under their radar; only in Australian press does this album seem to have found an appreciative crowd, with one outlet naming it as the best “driving-then-pulling-over-for-sexy-escapades” album of the year.
If the first half of the record is giddy ambient pop then the middle section is where the psych comes to the fore, with some songs drifting into the atmospheric and dreamlike sounds that is associated with this genre, particularly Also Gesellschaft with its slightly ominous tones. Webb once again displays his ability to create genuinely attractive music with the next track, Obscura, with its purposefully staccato and distorted guitars piercing through with bite – arguably another of the standout songs on this album.
As mentioned at the start of this review, Oh Inhuman Spectacle can probably be given the title of “best album of 2015 that nobody knew about”, or at the very least a strong nomination in that category. Outside of Australia, nobody seems to know this record exists and while that will make it all the more enjoyable for the glitterati of the music world, it is a shame that only a select handful will get to enjoy this record for the time being.