The “buzziest new band of the year” (Rolling Stone) – or “the world’s buzziest new band” (Vogue) – started causing a buzz last summer. Debut single “Chaise Longue” announced Wet Leg to the world with three minutes of coolly recited sexual innuendo and rousing post-punk combustion. Old hands were reminded of “Stutter”, Elastica’s calling card from 1993, where the Britpop band achieved lift-off with, ahem, a song about male impotence.
“Chaise Longue” catapulted Wet Leg’s Hester Chambers and Rhian Teasdale from one of the world’s least buzzy places, the Isle of Wight, to international acclaim. Parisian audiences chanted lyrics about buttered muffins back at them. Beaming New York talk show hosts gave them airtime. Now comes the next test for the hype, the duo’s self-titled debut album. Will the buzz grow louder, as it did with Elastica’s also self-titled debut? Or will long-form Wet Leg prove a buzzkill?
Both possibilities are weighed up by the opening track “Being in Love”. “I feel so uninspired, I feel like giving up,” Teasdale recites over a monotonous bass thrum. But then the song leaps to its feet with an uplifting squall of guitars. “I kinda like it,” Teasdale announces of her ennui, “cause it feels like being in love.” Then it’s back to the mopey bass monotone. Deflation and excitement coexist as this anticipated album gets under way.
The utterly infectious “Chaise Longue” comes next, a reminder of the moment when the world fell in love with Wet Leg. Then “Angelica” reverts to a to-and-fro similar to “Being in Love”, with Teasdale recounting a comical tale of being bored at a party that she can not bring herself to leave. “I do not even know what I’m doing here / I was told there would be free beer,” she sings. Meanwhile, Chambers on lead guitar switches deftly between angular, nervy notes and fuzzy bursts of feedback. As on the other tracks, the twosome are joined by Michael Champion on bass and Henry Holmes on drums.
As the album progresses, its mingled mood of disillusionment and exhilaration becomes fixed on a particular theme. “Now I’m almost 28, still getting off my stupid face,” Teasdale sings in “I Don’t Wanna Go Out.” Alienation from adulthood recurs on “Too Late Now”, in which a remorseless clockwork beat accompanies her announcement that “I’m not sure if this is the kind of life I saw myself living”. Break-ups with dismal exes (“Loving You”, “Ur Mum”) and the awful vortex of smartphone addiction (“Oh No”) provide further markers of wasted time.
The ambivalent mood spills out to the listener, or at least this listener. Witty one-liners abound (“I just need a bubble bath to set me on a higher path”), but scenarios and characters are somewhat underwritten. Musically, there are passages of ho-hum indie-rock amid the catchy hooks and imaginative effects (such as Teasdale’s 11-second scream in a break-up song). The album is best experienced as a decent set of stories about twenty-something slackers trying to get their buzz back, not the triumphant coronation of the world’s buzziest band.
‘Wet Leg‘is released by Domino