That band name should’ve been a giveaway. Wet. It’s bloody obvious now but 2013’s hipster hyped debut EP held much promise, particularly the charming “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” that featured Carole King-esque wistfulness set to crisp beats à la Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”. This too-cool-for-school Brooklyn trio of angel-voiced songwriter Kelly Zutrau, axeman Marty Sulkow and studio wizard Joe Valle were surely on a fast track to dinner party soundtrack heaven. The talk o’ the town, next big things to be filed smoothly betwixt your 180g vinyl of the XX and London Grammar. Their cheekily titled website – www.kanyewet.biz – proved they had a sharp sense of humour too. What’s not to love? It was all agreed. Contracts were signed. 2016! “Monsoon Mania: Everyone gets Wet!” Damn, if only it wasn’t so very, well, Wet.
Don’t You arrives then with high hopes and great expectations. Recent single “It’s All in Vain” appears at first to be an understated, low key introduction. A gentle warm-up perhaps before the main event. Zutrau’s poetic lilt is as bright-eyed ‘n’ box-fresh as we remember pirouetting somewhere around Dolores O’Riordan and Dido. There’s sensual, state-of-the-art shuffly beats and expertly timed piano chords. It’s all professionally clean and coolly cut. Zutrau pines romantically for her “Baby” though we suspect they’re not of the “Infant baby” variety. Another single, “Deadwater” follows. More glossy aesthetics and lovestruck angst. You picture the trio in a white room, resplendent in white suits, draped over an ivory piano with an easy breeze tickling the curtains. So immaculately refined but let’s be honest we’re already looking at our watch.
“I’m not living right.” Hey here comes “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl”. Hurrah! Zutrau’s tough talking lyrics bring some much needed bite to all this tastefully polite decor, “I just wanna see you up and out out of the door.” Yeah! Footstompin’ and fingerclickin’ good, if only the rest of Don’t You was this vivacious. “Weak” follows and its title is again appropriate. The heroine from “Girl” has left the building and been replaced by a stalkerish ex-lover. “Baby, Baby, Baby please don’t leave me” it sobs with its arms now grasped firmly around your leg, “Baby please don’t leave me!”
As well as possessing more “Baby’s” than a maternity hospital during a staggeringly busy “Baby Boom Bonanza”, Don’t You has some serious abandonment issues. The lyrics are littered with lovers’ leaving / being kicked out, the subsequent loneliness and the pining for their return. Despite the candlelit, Valentine sheen this is a troubled record sometimes to the point of (gentle) mania. Take “Island”, which arrives like a mentalist outside their lover’s house at 3AM. “Say you need me / Hold me down! Like you want me! Just say the words!” it calls over ticking clocks, weeping violins, slow floating swampfog and ghostly childlike piano. “SAY YOU NEED ME!” During “Small and Silver”, Zutrau further demands to either be left on a mountain, drowned at sea or alternatively put in “A clown car”. It’s got to be the latter surely. What’s most disturbing though is how all this sad, passive aggressive desperation is continually accompanied by the same blandly beige, sterilized “No sharp objects” production again and again. “Leave me, leave me”, “Silver” sighs, unsurprisingly. Yeah, whatever.
It’s a long night folks. More sparse, shuffly beats. More polite piano chords. More babies. “Move Me” is elevator Muzak for the cuckoo’s nest. Again you wait in vain for the rush that never comes. The ol’ sonic defibrillator to the heart. “Call me by my real name / Call me crazy” it cries. Elsewhere the anaesthetised, slow clapping “Body” carries all the ambience of a funeral march. “I never knew I’d be so lonely,” exhales Zutrau, “Shake me ’til I fall apart”. It’s hard not to share her frustration.
“I’m so tired from all this losing.” Despite the drab “Leave me! No wait, DON’T leave Me!” dampness, there are moments where Don’t You slips its shackles and shows you what could have been. “All the Ways” brings this waterlogged wasteland some radiant sunbeams. A bouncy bootyshaker with a touch of TLC. It’s alive, alive! It may still decree “I don’t ever wanna leave you”, but it’s on its feet even if the pay-off proves ominous, “Everytime I see your face / I think of all the the ways that this could end.” Quick lock the backdoor! 2013’s clear-eyed, Feist-bright, sparkler “You’re the Best” similarly still shines brighter than Doris Day and for three heavenly minutes it’s a wonderful world. “I still feel lonely” though Zutrau confesses as the blue skies roll on. But it’s the frail, delicate closer “These Days” co-written with Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly that hits hardest. One dusty piano. A creaky cello. The heartfelt vocal. “I am away from you.” It’s wonderful. You want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain, right?
Wet’s debut is the kind of record that makes you want to live more dangerously. Y’know dance under ladders. Eat a hearty meal before swimming. Wear a Mankini to a job interview. Marry a horse. Change your name to “Jar Jar Binks”. Anything that’ll make life more exciting. Basically anything but wade back through the stillwaters of Don’t You anytime soon. Its insular lack of adventure ultimately delivers disappointingly dull listening. Dive for the modest jewels and swim away baby, this one’s a bit of a drip.