There are many ways to introduce yourself as you crash into rock & roll history. It turns out that one of those ways is to yell, “I went to school and I got the Big D!” The U.K. duo Wet Leg made a surprise splash last year by dropping two bombshell singles right on top of each other, “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream.” They blew up into an international overnight sensation with a perfect formula: postpunk guitar buzz, sneering sarcastic one-liners about twenty-something sex and revenge.
Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers hail from the Isle of Wight, where they made the casual decision to start their band while riding together on a Ferris wheel. Even these two think it’s weird how they got so famous so fast. But that only proves that people have absolutely starved for a band like this. Two women with guitars, coming on fierce, cool, arrogant, lusty, funny, not the least bit apologetic. They’re the most exciting new rock chancers in years, and Wet Leg is an album the world has been fiending for.
The album is packed with hilariously nasty kiss-offs like “Piece of Shit” and “Ur Mum” — it’s got hooks for days, cheek for weeks. Part of the charm is that Wet Leg wrote and recorded it this time last year, long before “Chaise Longue” blew up. So there’s nothing self-conscious about it, just a couple of bored friends making a racket to crack up each other and piss off the world. As Teasdale told Rolling Stone, “It came out of that 13-year-old girl sleepover head space.”
The early singles are still highlights on the album. “Chaise Longue” is a scathing take on post-grad malaise, with the question, “Would you like us to assign someone to worry your mother?” “Wet Dream” gets candid about the messy details of lust. Only Teasdale could sell a ridiculous pick-up line like, “Baby do you wanna come home with me?/I got Buffalo 66 on DVD.”
But as the album proves, Wet Leg are not exactly soft-spoken when it comes to dissecting male lameness. As Teasdale tells an admirer, “You say you think about me in the midnight hour/I know that you’re just rubbing one out up in the shower.”
Things they hate include the social scene (“The ambience was overrated at the party”), dating apps, doom-scrolling, self-care (“I just need a bubble bath to set me on a higher path”), their exes (“If you were better to me then maybe I’d consider fucking you goodbye”), and of course, supermarkets. They hate going out (“I Don’t Wanna Go Out”) and they hate staying in (“Too Late Now”). Things they approve of are basically just Bowie (they nick the hook from “The Man Who Sold The World”) and guitars. They don’t ask much of life, really — all they want is “good times all the time.”
They’re a classic Britpop rhythm-guitar band — drop them in the 1990s, and they’re up there with Elastica or Pulp; drop them in the 2000s and they’re with Franz Ferdinand, the Rakes, or the Maccabees. Teasdale handles lead vocals and lead guitar, with significant input from keyboardist and producer Dan Carey. Chambers adds crucial personality as well as a solo spotlight in “Convincing.”
Wet Leg might revel in Pavement-style guitar slack, but again like Pavement, they turn it into deceptively crafty tension-and-release eruptions. It goes with the emotional roller coaster of the songs — for all the sardonic laughs, Wet Leg don’t play coy about sexual politics. “Piece of Shit” seems like a funny dis song, but it’s full of acerbic reflections on misogyny. Same with “Loving You” and “Ur Mum,” where Teasdale rips an ex to shreds: “When I think about what you’ve become/I feel sorry for your mum.”
All told, Wet Leg are a couple of artsy rock & rollers who want too much, feel too much, hate too much, while chasing too many good times. No wonder the world was so ready to fall madly in love with them. After two years of quarantine blues, there was just a widespread cultural craving for this kind of action, and Wet Leg were as surprised as anyone when they tapped into it. But the album makes it sound like they’re just getting started.