Wet Leg seem to get as much flak for being on everyone’s airwaves as they do unabashed praise. You could make a convincing argument in either direction, but we also sometimes forget in the realm of critical appraisal that we’re dealing with music here. All the dissertations and heated discourse about the relevance of artists’ discographies exist in a world where two youths from the Isle of Wight can randomly decide one day, on a Ferris Wheel, that they want to form a rock band. Is that why some of us get so annoyed when the music they end up making make happens to make them an overnight Western sensation? Some of us would rather post-punk be represented in solemnity, but when there’s room to dance and free beer to be consumed, should it matter?
What does matter is that the duo’s self-titled debut is 36 minutes of pure fun: a popcorn flick with a few slow parts but otherwise no filler. Music of this variety is tough to do right, so that is worth celebrating. Every single track is louse with hooks, from the demented guitars on “Chaise Longue” and “Oh No” to the lyrical repetition on “Wet Dream”. The words are simple enough to form universal sing-alongs, and both Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – each with their own library of phonetic nuance – deliver them compellingly. Yet that lyrical simplicity belies enough sharp insights about the pitfalls of young adulthood to keep the record from being a guilty pleasure.
These insights occasionally register as timeless, especially the summarized drag of “Being in Love”, but more often, they’re specific to today. “Oh No” summons every wasted night spent getting increasingly lonely while scouring Instagram, feeling the life drain from your eyes. “Angelica”, similarly, collates every party spent battling social anxiety and measuring yourself against the “it” girl. These scenes naturally form extensions of a single experience – they could be scenes plucked from an acclaimed coming-of-age film. In Wet Leg’s extended universe, the titular “Piece of Shit” could be the same person Chambers excoriates in “Ur Mum”, and the party in “Angelica” might be the one Teasdale just escaped in “Oh No”.
That’s about as much as you can quickly glean. Otherwise, the record is easily accessible on a surface level, and as a series of irresistible moments, it’s almost unparalleled. Teasdale’s scream on the breakdown of “Ur Mum” is a bolt of lightning in an otherwise uninspiring song; the bouncing chorus of “Wet Dream” evokes a sea of pogoing; the snare that kicks in just before “Chaise Longue” pops off can singlehandedly start the party. That’s not to discount the deeper cuts, like the Bowie-cribbing “I Don’t Wanna Go Out” or the melancholy “Loving You”. They just happened to be outshined by the moments that heighten Wet Leg from being just another indie band to something deserving of all the hype.
The most substantial tick against the album is that we’ve technically seen all of this before, in several forms. It’s not just the last 25 years of indie to contend with either. It’s easy to naturally feel distrustful of this flavor of rock, the kind that has soundtracked countless commercials and television scenes ever since the practice became a career linchpin. If you’re sick of it, it’s hard to blame you.
But also, like, shut up. Life’s too short to be wringing your hands over whether Wet Leg are just an approximation of a hundred other approximations or if they’re going to be remembered five years from now. Let go of your little inner battles, get some friends together, put the record on, get dressed up, go out and have fun. Let your heart break. Find new ways to hurt, and if you can’t find any, seek them all over again. Or, to paraphrase Teasdale, stop sitting down and get to it.