REVIEW: Wet Leg release their long-awaited self-titled debut LP
Things have been tough, haven’t they? Certainly the past two years have been significantly so, but we can’t ignore the build up of shit garbage over multiple decades (or millennia, really) that got us here. It’s probably fair to say that life might just suck a little bit. If you take that statement to be true, you should listen to Wet Leg. Having just released their eponymous debut album after forming two years ago, lead vocalist Rhian Teasdale and lead guitarist Hester Chambers are set to be important voices in indie rock. It’s easy to like Wet Leg; their dry vocal delivery, catchy guitar hooks, and DIY music videos harken back to both Britpop and 2000s indie pop while still feeling totally fresh. But what makes them really, really good is their portrayal of what it’s like to be utterly and disappointingly disaffected.
An often neglected aspect in analyses of existential frustration is that it doesn’t just come from one source. Burnout is a result of a melting pot of personal and global issues. Many of us have become intimate with the lack of feeling that causes; it is one of the few intimacies we have left. Many tracks on Wet Leg work toward articulating how the emptiness of our lives impacts our sense of self-worth. Why are you still going to parties with people you don’t like and dating people that don’t care about you? When’s the last time you spent time alone without feeling sorry for yourself?
If you’re interested in a starting point for this record, “Angelica” is a bit of a thesis statement for who Wet Leg is. Over a bouncy guitar line, it tells a loose story of night outs with a friend who has an innate knack for social-butterflyism. “Angelica, she brought her ray-gun to the party / Angelica obliterated everybody / I look at my hands, then I look for the door,” sings Teasdale, a smile audible in her tone. Disconnect from peers (“I don’t wanna follow you on the gram / I don’t wanna listen to your band”) is both a source of annoyance and self-consciousness. It’s a fun track, able to be played at any party while you stare at your phone and wait for an excuse to leave.
“I Don’t Wanna Go Out” and “Oh No” are similarly themed and equally catchy, but take new angles to the same concept. “I Don’t Wanna Go Out” deals with the reckoning of your late twenties; why am I doing the same shit I was doing ten years ago? It’s more subdued than “Angelica” and comes right after it on the tracklist, acting as a sort of hangover anthem. “Oh No” is about the nights where you don’t go out but can’t help feeling like you’re missing something, scrolling your phone and getting sucked “inside it.” It references watching the Pizza Rat video. Both songs are very of-the-moment looks at isolation, but it’s hard to imagine them feeling dated in a few years due to their timeless indie pop style.
The other side of the record handles a tough break-up and its aftermath. Sometimes angry, sometimes horny, Wet Leg is always frank about the messiness of this doomed long-term relationship. The strongest of these are “Wet Dream” and “Loving You”; they seem to operate as two sides of the same breakup. “Wet Dream” is a sexy power pop-esque track about getting sexts from your ex. It’s probably the best of the singles that were released before the record, along with “Chaise Longue”, because of its easy pop appeal and tongue-in-cheek lyricism. It’s evocatively erotic with lines like “You climb onto the bonnet and you’re licking the windscreen / I’ve never seen anything so obscene”. On the other hand, “Loving You” is a quieter almost-ballad conveying the anger and hurt felt when an ex-lover finds a new girlfriend. The transition from being the person in the power position in “Wet Dream”, where your ex still wants you, to “Loving You” two songs later on the record and he’s the one moving on from the relationship, is an honest look at how complicated the dissolution of relationships can be.
Despite these dives into serious subject matter, Wet Leg is also painfully funny at times. Teasdale and Chambers are already masters at taking awkward moments and turning them into lyrical quips. “Chaise Longue” is a great example of this; it uses sexual innuendos throughout, creating absurdity out of mundane adult things like getting your degree or having nothing better to do than laying on the iconic chaise lounge all day long. Likewise, “Supermarket” is a rocker ode to going to the grocery store stoned out of your mind. It’s tracks like these that make the record feel more lived in and genuine. The humor suits the fast and loose song structures and the catchy choruses.
It’s not a stretch to say that Wet Leg could be one of the best indie releases so far this year. It’s a fact to say that it’s the best debut. Wet Leg has done a rare thing here. They’ve managed to write a batch of songs that are angsty and romantic about daily struggles, but without ever feeling immature or saccharine. Instead, the album is a blast; anthem after anthem for the disenfranchised twenty-something. Maybe Wet Leg is too new to make any predictions about their future, but I know that this record will be a companion through many of my ups and downs to come.