Wet Leg’s first studio album, released earlier this month, was one of the most anticipated debut projects for any band. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, the two members of the British indie-rock duo, were acutely aware of the building excitement. Their first ever single, “Chaise Lounge,” was named NPR’s song of the year. They quickly followed “Chaise Lounge” with four more singles and then announced (and partially sold out) a UK tour. Yet, despite the pressure put on their project, Teasdale and Chambers have quite possibly exceeded expectations. Wet Leg almost immediately received an array of praise and a spot at the top of the UK’s albums chart.
What’s most impressive about this meteoric rise to success, however, is that Teasdale and Chambers diverge from a plethora of industry standards and genre norms. Despite their refusal to adhere to conventions set and followed by other current musicians, Teasdale and Chambers still find themselves making a musical impact. The excitingly unique nature of their project becomes apparent upon listening to even the first song off Wet Leg.
The album begins with “Being in Love,” which sets the stage for the eccentric, psychedelic, occasionally energetic sounding remainder of the album. Several moments of intense instrumentation and cathartic singing punctuate Teasdale’s dry, almost non-melodic delivery of the song. This underscores just how different the project will be from other trending albums. The closest comparison to other commercially popular bands could be to older British rock–along the lines of the Pipettes or similar acts. While this influence resonates through the entire LP, Teasdale’s punchy yet muted delivery of the chorus’s “la-la-la-la” seems to be especially reminiscent of The Strokes’ characteristic sound from a decade or two ago.
The album’s next cut, “Chaise Lounge,” perfectly follows up that introduction. As noted earlier, “Chaise Lounge” went viral last year and for good reason. Relentlessly catchy and chock full of innuendos and a few bad jokes, this song begins to establish broader ideas within Wet Leg. Most of the album dedicates itself to identifying the unsatisfyingly mundane and simultaneously challenging nature of becoming an adult and acting responsible in the modern world. “Chaise Lounge” does just that, recounting an experience Teasdale had while at a concert through a series of thinly veiled (or in some instances completely unhidden) sexual references. The juxtaposition of Teasdale and Chambers’ dissatisfied lyrics and almost lifeless performance with their bizarrely humorous and free-wheeling songwriting feels somewhat surreal and ironic. In any case, it’s certainly unparalleled in other trending albums.
While “Chaise Lounge” reflects on the drudgery within Teasdale and Chambers’ professional lives, the next two songs, “Angelica” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Out,” further describe the frustrating monotony they experience, now contextualizing it to their party scene. Beneath the catchy, high-energy guitar riffs lie the harrowing realization that punctuating a week of lifeless work with a terrible weekend party is wholly unfulfilling. In the final seconds of “I Don’t Wanna Go Out,” Teasdale laments that “everything just feels dumb… / And now I'm almost 28,” a realization that both summarizes the album so far and flows well into the next run. Beginning with “Wet Dream” and including hits like “Ur Mum,” this series of songs focuses on breakups and experiences with dating, all in the context of how everything leading up to the present moment feels like a waste. In the same style as the prior songs, Teasdale and Chambers approach the topic with dry and satirical lyrics, hurling innuendoes and insults at their exes.
Despite the engaging lyrics, the five songs about failing relationships border on unexciting repetition. This far into the record, the shock of Wet Leg’s blasé and distinct style begins to wear off. If not for “Convincing,” it would be safe to say that, here, the project lapses into mediocrity. Integral to what makes “Convincing” novel and notable is the vocals–it’s the sole track on the album led by Hester Chambers. Her performance provides a fresh break from the rest of the songs and gives a varied perspective of what it means to be in a troubled relationship.
The album fittingly caps off with “Too Late Now,” a track with a more ethereal sound than any other on the record. However, the instrumentation is overshadowed by the lyrics, a dense testimony and summary of the various experiences Teasdale and Chambers have sung about thus far. Taken alone, this song is a depressing close to the project, bemoaning the difficulty of realizing you’ve become an adult, and yet your life isn’t going how you’d hoped. As Teasdale puts it, it’s terrible to want to be different, but also understand that you’ve “lost track” and it’s “too late” to change the trajectory of your life in a major way.
Yet, taken in the full context of the album, “Too Late Now,” actually provides a hopeful suggestion to listeners who’ve related to the disappointment Wet Leg has thus far described. As Teasdale points out, “life's supposed to be this shit;” the experiences that she and Chambers sing about are to be expected for a young person taking on more and more responsibility in a mostly meaningless world. The redeeming hope is the implication that because life holds little meaning, it is what we make of it.
The album as a whole stands as a monument to the power of injecting silly irrelevance into a dreary and serious world. If life is what we make of it, we ought to accept that it can be boring and difficult. But we also shouldn’t stop there. We can find joy in the small things–telling terrible sex jokes, singing about taking bubble baths, and insulting old romantic partners. Through these simple acts, you might just find your reality transformed from an unsatisfying chore into a joyful and surprisingly bearable endeavor.
Final Verdict: Wet Leg established a catchy, unique, and poignant sound for themselves on their debut album–4/5 stars