Wet Leg Revel in the Absurdity of Modern Life on Self-Titled Debut Album
Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who comprise UK indie rock duo Wet Leg, have expressed a somewhat bewildered amusement at the unanticipated success of their hit single “Chaise Longue.” It’s a natural reaction, considering the meaninglessness of a decidedly silly song with a refrain about spending “all day long, on the chaise longue.” Yet, the song is not so much a meaningless song as it is a song about meaninglessness. Moreover, the track doesn’t bemoan the absence of meaning, but celebrates it with a sort of foolhardy glee. Its new wave stylings, at once upbeat and grounded in ironic traditions, are an ideal conveyance, neatly encapsulating the perspective behind all the tracks on Wet Leg’s self-titled debut album. With their cheeky, acerbic take on the disillusionment of twenty-somethings in today’s world, the duo from the Isle of Wright has rapidly garnered accolades from the likes of Elton John and Iggy Pop, and it’s easy to see why.
On “Chaise Longue,” the band interpolate a snippet of dialogue from 2004 teen comedy “Mean Girls” — “Is your muffin buttered? / Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” Throughout the album, they continue, in this manner, to poke fun at the absurdity of going through the motions in life, pondering what we’re meant to do next. On “Angelica,” another chirpy New Wave-inspired number, we find Teasdale at a party, confessing, “I don’t know what I’m even doing here / I was told that there would be free beer.” On a slightly deeper level, there’s a sense that aspirations to simply have “good times, all the time” are wearing thin. When the party ends, Teasdale continues, “I went home, all alone / I checked my phone and now I’m inside it” on “Oh No,” as she channels Kathleen Hanna in a sarcastic, three-note cheer chant over handclaps, messy punk rock sputtering guitars, and jokey metal soloing.
The inanity of showing face and doom scrolling leads Teasdale to a breaking point — almost. On “Ur Mom,” she resolves, “When the lights go down on this fucking town / I know it’s time to go.” Finally letting out the building tension, she alerts us, “I’ve been practicing my longest and loudest scream,” and guides us along as she counts to three and lets out a blood curdling shriek. The sound is far from horrorshow fare however, as the scream comes amid stylings even more definitively New Wave than the acclaimed single, replete with wheezing synths and all the assemblage of outfits like Elvis Costello & the Attractions.
The stark awareness of navigating a dead scene is further animated in “Supermarket,” inspired by the experience of shopping just after lockdown restrictions were loosened, when customers queued for a grocery store like they would a nightclub. Teasdale brims with excitement, not to dance, but to “shop it ’til I’m weak at the knees,” with deliriously goofy singalong chants. As a surreal grocery shopping experience lends itself to playing house, and considering notions of domesticity, Teasdale weaves in bits that hint at her attitude regarding relationships. “I want to take you to the supermarket” leads to “I want to take you back to meet my parents / I wanna tell them ’bout that job that you do.” The blatant sarcasm is consistent with the various looks into romantic affairs that make their way into the album.
“Wet Dream,” with a chorus that again screams of Kathleen Hanna, is a warped lampoon of the “soft boy” archetype, the male who affects an overly sensitive, artistic comportment in an attempt to win over ladies. If it weren’t clear how unimpressed Teasdale is with such figures, she goes on to express herself with figurative language on “Piece of Shit,” condescending, “Alright, want me to cry… Alright, whatever helps you sleep at night.” The jaded weariness that manifests at parties and supermarkets extends to the bedroom in admissions like “Yeah, technically, I know that I agreed / But it was unenthusiastically.” On “Loving You,” Teasdale dons a strained, breathy voice and some almost operatic voicings, singing with a teeter-tottering, faux sincerity as she insists, “I don’t wanna have to stay friends,” and throws in, “Hope you’re choking on your girlfriend.” In the opener, “Being In Love,” she sings, “I feel like someone has punched me in the guts / I kinda like it cause it feels like being in love.” She sings her melodies in the verses just slightly off-key, creating a tension that resolves with a cathartic chorus in which mockingly gushy voicings and a hackneyed eruption of distorted guitars effectively get her point across.
Panning out to life at large, we find Teasdale confronting fading dreams as time ticks on in “I Don’t Wanna Go Out,” panicking, “I have to find a way out / Of the plans that I made in the past,” over a progression with a strategically situated minor chord that evokes a sudden shift of sentiment. On “Convincing,” her bandmate Chambers has a well-deserving stint on lead vocal duties, and delivers a blissful, punchy chorus about “convincing… yourself / This is finе,” only to conclude, “It’s not working for you darling.”
As it turns out, there is light at the end of the tunnel after all. In the closing number, “Too Late Now,” Teasdale consoles herself, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix / Well, life’s supposed to be this shit.” Ultimately, why not simply spend “all day long, on the chaise longue” — or at least write songs about it? Among the hordes of new fans that Wet Leg has won with “Chaise Longue,” there is a palpable, shared appreciation of how much fun the song is. Even with all its jeering, jaded posturing, the sprightly, upbeat tune rings like a celebration of life in all its meaningless absurdity. And in a grand stroke of ultimate irony, it seems to be heralding all of Teasdale’s and Chambers’ wavering dreams.
“Wet Leg” releases April 8 on Apple Music.