Wet Leg seemed to come out of nowhere. Silly name. Double (and single) lyrical sense. A Domino’s record deal on the back of a couple of tracks on SoundCloud. Within weeks, their June 2021 debut single, Chaise Longue, had launched the Isle of Wight duo from unknowns to the hottest band around on just a few minutes of silly catchy guitar pop.
That song hinted at how Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers could push new wave, post-punk and relentless hooks in a raucous embrace. And yes, Chaise Longue set the bar high, with her Mean Girls reference and a bucolic music video (now viewed more than 8.5 million times). It has been widely rated as one of the best songs of 2021. Could their first record deliver on its promise? Back in April, their self-titled debut answered, ultimately, yes.
On one level, the album is an autopsy of a past relationship conducted in foolishness, with Teasdale often sounding openly disgusted with men before spraying a cream smiley on that judgment. He delivers an ex’s scathing assessment of Ur Mum—”When I think of what you’ve become / I feel sorry for your mother”—but tempers it by singing in his upper register. If you don’t listen closely, it’s just sunny, vaguely psychedelic ear. But as with single Wet Dream, the duo pair sweet with sour to disarm, then approach you and whisper the real story in your ear. In Wet Dream, she talks about an ex who, after the breakup, allegedly told Teasdale when she appeared in his dreams about her. Her answer? “What makes you think you’re good enough to think about me / When you touch yourself?”
Wet Leg (the album) also deals with a kind of bourgeois millennial malaise. Teasdale and Chambers get the scabs because they’ve been promised a great life and then find it wanting. Both Angelica and I Don’t Wanna Go Out look exhausted from the pressure of having fun at parties. Oh No turns the 3am doomscrolling into something akin to a saucy, filthy nursery rhyme: “Went home, all alone / Checked my phone and now I’m into it.”
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If they seem concerned, it’s because they have been for a few years. They met at music college on the Isle of Wight and fronted separate projects, Teasdale as Rhain and Chambers fronting Hester and the Red Squirrel Band. It all seemed a bit gloomy. Once they started writing together as Wet Leg in 2019, they realized making music could be fun. But they were nearing their late 20s; Teasdale, in particular, felt that the time would soon come to find “real work”. Adulthood did not look like she was promised. Feel that anxiety – a sigh of “I’m too old for this, right?” – throughout the album.
Worry is always balanced with something lighthearted. A lot of the music here is fun just for the hell of it. And their gags and singsong choruses suggest an attitude so disposable it’s almost absurd. One could be cynical about the rise of Wet Leg: in interviews, Teasdale and Chambers say things like: “we’re just little country bumpkins” and “we write songs waiting for them Not be heard”. They play without frills.
That belies the stress and introspection they manage to cloak in humor throughout this debut. Clearly they are concerned with making sense of their lives: otherwise they would have filled an album with their thoughts on modern life? They’re trying to be arcane, sure. But look beyond the smirk and there are skills, observance and tunes creeping into your brain. Their viral success wasn’t a one-off. No pressure for the next album, then.