[5 August 2009]
Named after a comic book by cult British artist David Shrigley, Let’s Wrestle have seemingly been brought up on a constant diet of Britain’s most colorful DIY musical characters. From Television Personalities through to Vic Godard, Subway Sect, Felt, and the Fall, this London-based trio take their musical cues from this long lineage of immaculate rebel-indie heroes. Seeing singer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez stalk tonight’s venue like he’s lost his library card beforehand makes one dream of the days when more awkward, talented fellows held the limelight instead of today’s typical indie-rock posers.
Over the last few years, London-based DIY label Stolen Recordings have had a distinct knack for discovering new bands with a genuine sense of alternative magic, soul, and that little something special. Whether its albums of euphoric lyrical/melodic indiepop from Pete and the Pirates or the otherworldly sounds of Japanese heroes Screaming Tea Party or the label’s compilation LPs that put British alternative radio playlists to shame, Stolen Recordings rarely put a foot wrong. And on tonight’s showing Let’s Wrestle—three lads in their late teens/early twenties—are another discovery destined to set hearts racing.
The group’s musical world is a total embrace of the now. Their songs find them kicking and scratching at the surface, taking bleakness and depression and fighting against it with glorious, impulsive asides that make the listener feel joyous inside. The sound is jagged yet pop to its core. Soul, hope, humor, anger, aggression, sadness, and ecstasy all fight for expression amidst the erupting melodies. Tonight it kind of all meanders into life, the band sauntering through the opening track “My Arms Don’t Bend That Way, Damn It!” like they’re waiting for the oven to pre-heat before throwing their musical mix in to bake. Of course, it’s brilliant. Lazy and lyrically defiant, it steals hope from a hopeless situation with its genius chorus of, “they said if you want to help, just kill yourself / But I won’t do that.”
The opening song enables the band to captivate the crowd from the off, but what’s most impressive is the way Gonzalez ups it all a notch thanks to his voice and lyrics, the former growling like Mark E. Smith and the latter humoring like Woody Allen. His two cohorts—bassist Mike Lightning and drummer Darkus Bishop—play away in their own respective worlds, combining offbeat glamour with art-punk frenzy. “It’s Not Going to Happen” is a noble song of resigned love, shimmying and shambling, exploding here and there in a laid-back and thoughtful manner. Following in its melancholy trail is “I Won’t Lie to You”, a wonderfully openhearted song that traverses a much more upbeat plane. “Tanks” has that irresistible bass/guitar/drums shimmer of label-mates Pete and the Pirates. Plucked from joyous, timeless indie hearts, it bounces along like a cartoon bird on a branch while Gonzalez weaves a lyrical pattern of loss and affection. With perfect echoes of Roy Orbison, “In Dreams” is romantic to its core; its poetry and poignancy blossoming like fallen dreams that rise again thanks to sheer hope.
By now the band have stirred up a quiet fervor. It’s a glorious, easy intensity that mingles magically with the melodies, and their closing, signature track “Let’s Fucking Wrestle” metaphorically takes the roof off the place. Boundlessly energetic, savvy and playful, it gleefully name-checks a bunch of British ‘80s pro-wrestlers, and includes the irresistible hook, “let‘s wrestle, let‘s fucking wrestle.” Modern punks reaching for the stars, these Londoners are really something.