British group Wet Leg follow up their viral single with a successful album

British band Wet Leg can rightly be described as an instant hit. Their first single, the contagious and ironic “lounge chair”, has been streamed millions of times after its release last June. The song’s popularity gave momentum to the band’s first tour, which soon included sold-out performances and a spot at the SXSW festival. After Wet Leg released their self-titled debut album on April 8, they reached the top of the UK Albums Chart. The founders of the group did not expect so much attention.

“When we started Wet Leg, there was a firm, solid decision that it wasn’t going to be a serious band,” lead singer Rhian Teasdale said. Rolling stone. She and the other lead member, guitarist Hester Chambers, became friends at Isle of Wight College. Ten years later, they picked up guitars just for fun. Teasdale, Chambers and keyboardist Joshua Omead Mobaraki then improvised and recorded “Chaise Longue” for a lark. Today, the group’s admirers include Lorde, Jack White, Dave Grohl and Iggy Pop.

Despite the apparently spontaneous origins of the group and the avowed amateurism of its members, wet leg (2022) doesn’t look sloppy or thrown away. Rather, it’s a reasonably accomplished and professional album that shows intelligence and sparkle. The band’s sound draws inspiration from punk, disco and 1990s rock (e.g. Belly and Elastica) in almost equal measure. Although the songs are simple, the variations in rhythm, tempo, arrangement and mood keep the album interesting and enjoyable throughout. Of all musicians, Teasdale stands out for his singing. His techniques range from tongue-in-cheek recitation to sage falsetto, all coated in acid irony.

Wet leg in 2022 (Photo credit–Raph_PH)

“Chaise Longue” is based on an insistent rhythm of eighth notes and two chords. It’s strongly reminiscent of post punk bands like Delta 5. Teasdale delivers the lyrics, some of which sound like playground chants, in a matter-of-fact way. “Mom, dad, look at me. / I went to school and graduated. This last line soon becomes “…I have a capital D.” Teasdale also quotes the film mean girls (2004): “Is your muffin buttered? / Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin? She recites the repetitive refrain as if she’s just finished. The non-sequences, arching vocals and driving rhythm are great fun. The band’s energy contrasts nicely with Teasdale’s apathy, and the song has a certain innocence despite its irony.

A flanged guitar gives the parts of “Angelica” a psychedelic tinge. The song describes a young woman who closely resembles the vocal personality that Teasdale adopts throughout the album. She strides into a party and “commands the room,” making snide comments like, “I don’t want to listen to your band. / I don’t know why I haven’t left yet. The lyrics (and delivery) are cheeky and provocative but limited to small-caliber social themes.

The band’s second single “Wet Dream”, also included on the album, features a disco beat. His humor is a little more open. Teasdale recounts his admirer’s dream and his increasingly ridiculous behavior. “You said, ‘Baby, you wanna come home with me? / I got Buffalo ’66 on DVD.’ “Although this line sounds like a mockery of hipsterism, Teasdale said rolling stone that “I just wanted to put ‘DVD’ in a song, because it’s so funny nobody watches them anymore.” She cultivates a superior and teasing tone, asking the handsome beau what makes her think he’s good enough to fantasize about her.

Wet leg in 2022 (Photo credit–Raph_PH)

Your momis an insulting song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an album by late ’70s new wave singer Lene Lovich. “I don’t want you to want me. / I need you to forget me,” sings Teasdale, in a nod to 70s power pop band Cheap Trick. The song shows the band’s unabashed borrowings from various pop culture sources. The results are light but pleasant.

A start-stop random beat distinguishes “Oh No”. Singing rhymes, all delivered with a poker face, take aim at a particularly affluent layer of the middle class (“Oh, my God. / Life is hard. / Credit card. / Oh no.”) and his pieties liberal (“You’re so awake. / Diet Coke. / I feel gross. / Oh no.”). The band channels the buzzing guitar and social satire of punk. Teasdale also references “People talk about themselves / Or whatever you always talk about”, implying that she is above such behavior.

The slower “Loving You” shows the group’s desire to vary its arrangements. It starts with a Roland TR-808 drum machine, which was a staple of early rap, and later incorporates an accordion and synthesized celesta. These seemingly incongruous instruments somehow complement each other on this song of lost love. Teasdale sings in a soft falsetto, sometimes through partially gritted teeth, and sometimes dropping profanities. The voices come together in harmony on the chorus: “I don’t want to be friends. / I don’t want to have to pretend. / I don’t want to meet your girlfriend. Could Teasdale express her feelings for once? Next comes the poison dart: “Hope you choke on your girlfriend.”

The closing song “Too Late Now” seems to give another glimpse into Teasdale’s state of mind. The insistent kick drum pattern feels like it’s plodding along as a guitar plays high-pitched arpeggios. After some bashing, Teasdale confesses her doubts in a quick recitation. “It’s all bad. / I think I changed my mind again. / I don’t know if that’s the kind of life I saw myself living. After dismissing her uncertainty with a joke, she admits that the world is “heartbreaking.” His self-destructive response is to drive his car into the sea, perhaps “taking you with me.”

wet leg is a generally admirable effort that suggests the group’s development potential. The band’s punk approach brings energy and freshness to the album. They are also open (or savvy) enough to offer rhythmic and timbral variety. Teasdale is such a crafty singer that her pose seems natural.

But Teasdale’s reflexive irony is also one of the band’s weaknesses. She looks at the world with a raised eyebrow but doesn’t commit to taking a position on it. It is one thing to trade in acid words on superficial subjects, to analyze or criticize society is another. Teasdale is far from alone in taking the first approach; it’s a long-standing artistic problem. But “Too Late Now” may represent a timid step toward a more candid engagement with the world.

Teasdale and Chambers say they don’t take themselves seriously. If we choose to take this “seriously”, what would their music sound like if they did? Wet Leg have already finished recording their second album, although no release date has been set. The future will tell if success gave them the courage to develop their strengths.

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