Wet Leg (Domino)
TWO FOR ONE IS A GOOD DEAL anywhere, so two versions of Wet Leg to be found on their self-titled debut is a win isn’t it? Yeah, almost certainly. But that doesn’t mean the versions are equal.
The Isle of Wight duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – both on guitars, both writing, both singing (though Teasdale does the bulk of it) – has been one of the discoveries and genuine entertainments of these plague times. On the basis of the singles which had preceded this record, you could say that lyrically they’ve got attitude and potency married to wit; and musically, they’ve got sardonic post-punk with a kind of buoyant indie pop flavour.
You could also say they were just so much fun.
There were a few things as purely enjoyable as their first single, Chaise Longue, which had a bassline like a throbbing vein in your forehead (or a B-52s five-string/one note riff), comic strip pursuing guitars kept in check by eyes down/elbows in drums, vocals offered with drop-dead indifference, and lyrics which veered from sexy to sardonic to cryptic-but-we-got-the-gist. If you played it once you found yourself hitting repeat another four or five times, until someone slapped you out of it.
The second single, Wet Dream, was nearly as great: refashioning a martial dance beat, the bassline now throwing shapes while the guitars began up front and retreated the further song went, and Chambers bouncing back lines at Teasdale in the chorus while a dolorous male voice tweaked memories of exactly the kind of man who would think Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 was a seduction tool. It was done in less than two and a half minutes so hitting repeat was automatic.
If the fourth single, Ur Mum, smoothed some of the vocals and filled out some of the previously empty sonic middle, it still came at you with eyebrows and hips cocked equally, the putdown of a failed ex not trying for any cleverness but ramping up from pointed (“When I think about what you’ve become/I feel sorry for your mum”) to offhandedly brutal (“You’re always so full of it/Yeah, why don’t you just suck my dick”). You weren’t necessarily going to dance to this, but then neither was he.
The tensile version of Wet Leg is still here on the album, in the third single, Oh No, which roughs up its guitars, prods rather than swings in its rhythm, and offers its lyrics in snap-shut bursts, and Too Late Now, Teasdale’s droll delivery not succumbing to the temptation to match the acceleration of drums and guitars.
However, around them, the remaining seven tracks are playing a slightly different game. What you might even call an upgrade in sophistication.
Angelica has a thicker guitar sound, a sweeter vocal setting, and a shift from post-punk prickliness to shades of ‘90s alternative; Piece Of Shit begins acoustically and takes up the argument for the reformation of The Pixies; I Don’t Wanna Go Out borrows from The Man Who Sold The World (that guitar riff) and Belly (that slow turning melody); Supermarket waves its arms in the air half decorously, half sleepily; and Loving You comes with a languid slinkiness, melodica in the background and simple drum loop in the front that softens even lines such as “Every time you see me out/You say you think about it in the midnight hour/I know that you’re just rubbing one out up in the shower”.
Normally, this kind of “maturing” of songwriting and sound might come with a second or third album, but Wet Leg have accelerated it, and there’s nothing wrong with that even if it blurs the differences between them and the competition. And even if the idea of slower/less brittle/more crafted songs as somehow more mature is debatable. It's a smart pop record.
Still, another couple of those pop with sharpened shivs songs wouldn’t have gone astray I reckon.