If ever there was an album with a more appropriate name, it’s the second long player by Methyl Ethel, the project of Jake Webb from Perth, Western Australia. This is the poster ad for the generation that forgot about the properties of sound; a generation that grew up with shitty MP3s and actually thought music was supposed to sound like that.
Everything Is Forgotten, alright. Webb and his so-called engineer James Ford have made an album that might sound great blasting from an 8-bit portable gaming console from the 1980s, but is a horrible sonic experience for anyone expecting to hear music. They have indeed forgotten everything: that music is organised sound, and that sound requires a certain sonic integrity to create its desired effect.
In fact the sound is so sub-par on most of this album that the effort required to engage with the songs was thwarted, time and time again.
The first song, ‘Drink Wine’, isn’t so bad. It sounds better than the others, and probably for good reason: it’s the only song to feature additional instrumentation (synthesisers, organ and drums), and clearly, more care went into it. Webb’s vocals elsewhere are poorly recorded and sometimes carelessly distorted, whereas on ‘Drink Wine’, they’re quite skillfully overdubbed and sung in quite a pleasant voice that’s not dissimilar to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson.
Speaking of which, the intentionally (?) lo-fi sound of UMO’s albums were offputting to this listener, so maybe – just maybe – Webb or Ford heard those records, stole the vocal moves and thought “we can sound shitty too, and it’s cheap!”
The press release, as you would expect, is full of superlatives for Everything Is Forgotten, calling it a “mysterious creature, all sinewy, curvaceous pop nuggets and enigmatic currents.” Reading that blurb, you’d think that the music might just sound adventurous and compelling and imaginative. The actuality is just another cheap as chips alt-pop synth pop record that hides its paucity of creativity under its poor sound.
There are occasional hints that Webb can wrap his throat around a tune, and there’s also the odd rare snatch of a promising tune, so it’s probably too soon to write Methyl Ethel off entirely. But Jeez, Wayne, what were you guys smoking to get it all sounding worse than a C90 cassette tape that’s been thrown on a gravel road and run over by a convoy of maniac lorries? 4AD (their English label) and Dot Dash (their Aussie label) and Remote Control (their NZ label) should all expect better.
[Note: Gary Steel reserves the right to reappraise and alter his star ratings up or down at any time].