The remarkable lightness of wet leg rock

For a brief moment last spring, when getting a vaccination appointment no longer seemed like winning some kind of crazy lottery, and Corona virus disease— 19 cases regressed convincingly, albeit temporarily, it seemed as if Americans were en masse ready for a big return to fun. Remember the fun? People were talking about the much-anticipated centenary of the 1920s, and the approaching so-called Summer Hot Vax. The hope was that after months of confinement and horror, we might have fun and have fun again, retire the elbow bump in favor of a full-body embrace, and have a little fun. In the end, those statements were a premature, clumsy misreading of the cultural moment. Getting rid of mass death was not so easy. What followed was like experiencing our best summer.

For some people, the pandemic has ended up changing the features of their social life in a more permanent way. Why back to the pre-quarantine screwup of deafening bars, endless poetry readings, and awkward dinner parties? How about a breakup at home, perhaps with one excellent friend? Wet League, the duo of Ryan Tisdale and Hester Chambers, make festive music for adults who come down to hang but are tired of being cornered by a supervisor near a pool of sweating hummus in the supermarket, or having to sport a jockey to get the waiter’s attention, or spending seventy-five dollars To move from one club to another in a series of professional taxis. It’s hard to think of a more relevant feeling of collective post-traumatic disillusionment than “It used to be so much fun / Now it all seems stupid / I wish I cared.” This line comes from “I Don’t Wanna Go Out,” a song on “Wet Leg,” the band’s much-anticipated debut album, which will be released this month.

Teasdale and Chambers clearly have a very good time laughing at each other, and anyone else’s enjoyment of indie rock and salty slate feels accidental. The duo met a decade ago, in college, on the Isle of Wight, and their easy-going relationship gives Wet Leg a wonderful lightness. Although each of them have been involved in other music projects, they didn’t have a full-time music career before last year. (Chambers worked in her family’s jewelry store, and Tisdale was a wardrobe help.) In keeping with the band’s tradition, they decided to start making music together while pausing at the top of a Ferris wheel, drunk, and they made it through just four gigs before signing to Domino Records.

Wet Leg is a charming, novice addiction – sarcastic, melodic, cheerful, clever, and adorable. Chambers plays lead guitar, Tisdale deals with rhythm guitar, and they are supported here by bassist Michael Champion, drummer Henry Holmes, and bassist and producer Dan Curry. Teasdale has a sound that can swing from deep and impressive to dry and bouncy. When you think something is lame, you can wither. In “Loving You,” Teasdale tells an ex-boyfriend, “I don’t want to be friends / I don’t want to pretend.” She gently adds, “I hope you’re choking on your girlfriend.” In Angelica, she laments the boredom of going out:

But I don’t want to follow you on the ‘gram.
I don’t want to listen to your band
I don’t know why I haven’t left yet
You don’t want any of this.

Much of the “wet leg” addresses the banality of adulthood, particularly the confusing span between young and middle-aged — twenty-five to forty, for example. (Tisdale is twenty-nine and Chambers is twenty-eight.) In the “Too Late Now” video, Tisdale and Chambers stumble into striped bathrobes with cucumber slices over their eyes. The montage brings together some of the aesthetically unpleasant elements of modern life: cranes, cigarette butts, Botox, litter dripping from packed trash, graffiti wishing passers-by a bad day, fluorescent lights, and a bathroom. “I’m not sure if this is the life I saw myself living,” Tisdale admits. The synthesizer rings like church bells. Although it doesn’t sound particularly dashing, “Too Late Now” is Teasdale’s most subtle and revealing vocal performance, and one of the best and most dynamic songs in “Wet Leg.” As kids, we’re often desperate to grow, but it turns out that adulthood can be ugly and frustrating. “I just need a bubble bath to put me on a higher path,” Tisdale shrugs. I always hear the line as a masterful misrepresentation of the self-care industry and its delusional promises of transcendence—no soaking, steam, or a mixture of crystals can undo the realities of tax season, garbage day, and furniture gathering.

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Musically speaking, Wet Leg offers the spiky but fun punk game that often seems like a cross between Pixies, Pavement and Garbage – all beloved players of the ’90s indie rock scene – but the most obvious point of comparison is Dry Cleaning, which is another excellent feature. A new British band with absurd and absurd lyrics. Both groups built an important following by releasing exotic and seductive songs long before their debut albums. Wet Leg was able to sell out the most US rounds after releasing just two tracks. (The band tweeted, “Many thanks to everyone who bought a ticket after only hearing two songs haha.”) “Cannonball,” an alternative rock hit from 1993 that, as much as a song I liked instantly and fiercely, was weird and funny, centered on rubber guitar, and all From the lyrics and delivery of the songs (wan, vaguely repeat sarcastically, he knows perfectly) the idea that rock music performed by women doesn’t always have to be concerned with heartbreak—it can also be funny, flowery, and effortless. Cheese Long opens, of course, with a phallic joke:

Mummy, dad, look at me
I went to school and got a certificate
All my friends call him Big D
I went to school and got a D.

Tisdale continues to quote from the movie “Mean Girls”—”Are your muffins decorated with buttercream? Do you want us to assign someone to butter your muffin?”—and to gently entice a potential suitor backstage: “I have a chaise longue in the locker room/And a box of Warm beer we can consume.” (Tisdale is fond of intentionally horrible performances, and on the single “Wet Dream” she sings, “Baby, do you wanna go home with me/I got Buffalo 66 on DVD.) “Cheese Long” was an instant hit. , partly because it showed two women having a kind of fun–stupid, laid-back firmly–usually reserved for young men, but mostly because its superior melody and boisterous boisterous architecture made it so much fun to scream along to. Hot Vax Summer’s dream was a bluff and cruel, but Teasdale and Chambers were offering a kind of carefree intimacy.(It sounds ridiculous, but there is an overwhelming amount of unexpected closeness in an instant on “Cheese Long” when Tisdale says, “Excuse me?”, and Chambers replies, “What?”)

Wet Leg encourages its listeners to pause for a moment in their endless annoyance and remember what it feels like to be an idiot with your best friend for a few hours. Despite the weight of the never-ending world events, there is still room for stupidity; Joy doesn’t always need to be indulgent, and art doesn’t have to be gloomy or humorless. In the fall, when Tisdale and Chambers were asked what the band’s name was—”What does it mean to be a wet leg?” DJ Jill Riley wondered – they couldn’t stop laughing. “That’s a nice question,” Chambers said. Tisdale added, “It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a reminder to not take yourself too seriously, because at the end of the day, you’re in a band called Wet Leg.” ♦

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