A review of the debut album from Isle of Wight indie rock duo Wet Leg - the end result of a year's worth of fever pitch acclaim.
“I don't need no radio / No MTV, no BBC / I just need a bubble bath / To set me on a higher path!” proclaims Wet Leg singer Rhian Teasdale during the bridge to album closer ‘Too Late Now’ on a recent performance on The Late Late Show with James Corden. As the television audience screams in approval at the Isle of Wight duo’s semi-coordinated twirls and deliver “whoops” throughout, it’s during the above moment that Teasdale briefly reveals an unplanned grin in awe of the audible crowd excitement she’s bearing witness to. Furthermore, the song quickly explodes into life again and the crowd are right with them in matching noise levels.
Whilst our perception in the UK of American audiences can be that of a boisterous nature, more often than not British garage rock bands play the US late-night talk show circuit to apathetic applause and the rustling of sweetie wrappers. Who can forget when, in 2006, a frustrated Alex Turner pointed out a man that had “just yawned” during an Arctic Monkeys performance of ‘A Certain Romance’ on David Letterman. This all makes the reaction to Wet Leg, described by the host as “phenomenal”, all the more remarkable.
Such a performance summed up exactly why Wet Leg, who are also formed of guitarist and backing vocalist Hester Chambers, are being spoken in some quarters as the most hyped band since The Strokes. The music was energetic, the lyrics relatable and quirky, whilst the actions were of a band who didn’t take themselves too seriously. The crowd’s palpable cheers marked the climax of nine months of hype, acclaim and viral singles just one week prior to the release of their long-awaited self-titled debut.
Their path to this point has been nothing short of unconventional. Wet Leg was recorded last April in London, a few months before ‘Chaise Longue’ (released 21 June 2021) had gained them notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic – the single having 13 million Spotify streams to date, performed live on Jools Holland and gushed over by celebrity fans from Iggy Pop to Hayley Williams. The fact they hadn’t even performed live as a band at the point of album creation is even more fascinating. Where it can be easy to be cynical at the overwhelming exposure they’ve received, it’s clear that the Isle of Wight duo have quickly struck a chord with music fans for their brand of infectiously enjoyable indie rock.
Wet Leg are described in their debut album’s press release as “sad music for party people, and party music for sad people…it is cathartic and joyful and punk and scuzzy and above all, it's fun”, a description which hits the nail on the head and is further established with their excellent debut.
With ‘Chaise Longue’ and ‘Wet Dream’ – the only two songs to their name for six months - being so similar in their upbeat garage rock quirks, it’s perhaps surprising how self-conscious and exposed Wet Leg reveals itself to be, particularly early on. The trippy ‘Angelica’ excellently contrasts a differing party experience of a carefree girl with the social awkwardness of the protagonist, whilst claustrophobic opener ‘Being In Love’ compares feelings of everyday anxiety with romance (“The world is caving in / I’m kinda struggling / I kinda like it ‘cause / It feels like being in love”). ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out’ is another subdued and melancholic highlight, with Teasdale bemoaning her current life situation (“Now I’m almost 28 / Still getting off my stupid face / Fucking nightmare”).
Whilst self-doubt may often come to the fore, the band temper such anxiety through their absurdist lyricism and infectious energy. Be it references to “buttered muffins” and Mean Girls (‘Chaise Longue”), sex dreams (‘Wet Dream’) or simply asking “why don’t you just suck my d***” (‘Ur Mum’), there’s a distinguishable rude edge to rival their social awkwardness.
This is exactly where the charm comes from, the two opposing themes merging to form one of the most enjoyable debuts you’ll hear in a long time. A couple of damp squibs aside ('Piece of Sh**', 'Convincing'), Wet Leg is groove, sex appeal, social awkwardness and goofiness all rolled into one, the banger-filled soundtrack to the lives of two uncompromising twenty-something females.
Similar to Franz Ferdinand’s mid-'00s mission statement, Teasdale and Chambers want to “write songs that people can dance to…we want people to have a good time”. In a contemporary British guitar scene now dominated by post-punk bands who take themselves very seriously, Wet Leg are a welcomed break…though that’s not to say the substance is entirely lacking. As they sing about in ‘Angelica’, it may not be full of “good times all the time”, but it’s a close enough effort. The most anticipated debut album of the year has arrived and it’s a whole load of fun worth investing in.