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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Kitty Empire

Wet Leg: Wet Leg review – absurdist delights and damp squibs

Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale, left, and Hester Chambers: 'There has rarely been a better time to be a female artist with a sharp tongue ’
Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale, left, and Hester Chambers: ‘There has rarely been a better time to be a female artist with a sharp tongue.’ Photograph: Hollie Fernando

Wet Leg are a band whose greatest power comes from unexpected contrasts. Their Mona Lisa smiles offset by steely-eyed glee, Rhian Teasdale (most vocals, guitar) and Hester Chambers (other vocals, guitar) paired wholesome bonnets with lobster claws in the video for 2021’s Wet Dream. Earlier this year, they offset a glam rock strop about smartphone anomie – Oh No – with yeti suits made of mop heads.

Then there’s the name itself. Former folk-leaning musicians, Teasdale and Chambers seem as though butter would not melt in their mouths. But their name hints at a sloppy mishap with a drink or, worse, of bodily fluids oozing where they shouldn’t.

Sex is a topic they dance around savvily and Wet Leg’s initial approach to getting sticky offered something of a wry, absurdist Gen Z update on Carry On. Their debut single, 2021’s Chaise Longue, was full of double entendres.

“Is your muffin buttered?” they asked, quoting Mean Girls. “You should be horizontal now.” Chaise Longue’s commitment to a kind of oblique punky breathlessness, meanwhile, recalled both Rock Lobster by the B-52s and Where’s Me Jumper by the Sultans of Ping FC. Going from nought to ubiquitous in a short space of time, Chaise Longue also echoed the previous successes of Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, Wet Leg’s Domino labelmates. But Wet Leg’s appetite for upending normality also recalls another earlier Domino band, Pavement.

The slick of bodily fluids squelching around Wet Leg’s muse was only reinforced by their second release, Wet Dream. But despite some surface roustabout jollity, it took a more fed-up turn. “What makes you think you’re good enough to think about me when you’re touching yourself?” wondered Teasdale in response to some explicit texts from an ex. He’s the kind of guy who’s quite keen to take you home to watch “Buffalo 66 on DVD”. Still, all seemed to bode well for a debut album that satirised all things moist and skewered the icky fantasies of windscreen-licking men.

A handful more tracks and now, the full monty, reveals that there seem to be two Wet Legs high-kicking for supremacy: the knockabout, sly, absurdist outfit and a band that turn out to be quite like a lot of other bands.

Watch the video for Angelica.

Despite dedicating Wet Leg to not taking themselves too seriously – a song called Supermarket larks about, shopping for bogofs while much the worse for wear – Teasdale and Chambers’s debut album turns out not to be the hoped-for collage of inspired juxtapositions and best friend energy. Rather, it is a tuneful indie rock album about being in your 20s, a conventional record that’s quite happy to lift the guitar line from David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World for I Don’t Wanna Go Out.

So there’s some disappointment here at this slew of perfectly good, but distinctly un-odd tunes about how terrible it feels to be in love or how confusing it is to be alive (Too Late Now).

Expectations sharply managed, Wet Leg’s charm and wit still serve them well. There has, in truth, rarely been a better time to be a female artist with a sharp tongue. From Self Esteem to CMAT via Dry Cleaning, British pop is teeming with clever women flinging zingers about.

Teasdale has a good few more up her bouffant calico peasant sleeve. Angelica – about hating a party – is rich with putdowns. “I don’t wanna follow you on the ’Gram/ I don’t wanna listen to your band,” she sighs.

Ex-partners come in for particularly quotable tongue-lashings. Teasdale can be blunt or entertainingly specific, conjuring up an entire scene with a few words. “Why don’t you just suck my dick?” she fumes on Ur Mum, shortly before making an exit. “When you’re getting blazed/ Spooning mayonnaise/ Yeah I know it’s time to go.” As she leaves, she takes the metaphorical pin out of a grenade with her teeth and throws it over her shoulder. “Well, if you were better to me then maybe I’d consider fucking you goodbye.” She’s got some terrible lines, too, though: “You’re so woke/ Diet Coke.”

Chambers, meanwhile, sings a track called Convincing and makes one last bid for skew-whiffness on a line about swimming at night in “bioluminescent plankton shit”. Conceived at one remove from mainland scenes on the Isle of Wight, Wet Leg’s unself-conscious art seemed initially to foreground the ridiculousness of everything (especially weird stains). Their album, by contrast, drills down hard into how rubbish exes are. Relatable, of course, understandable too, but perhaps not what was originally indicated by those lobster claws.

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