It is perhaps a telling sign of this strange era that one of the breakout music acts of the past 12 months was formed for a laugh by a pair of friends — singer-guitarists Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers — who had for years been trying to perform more “serious” music, mostly unsuccessfully. (Oddest of all, they didn’t even break through via TikTok.)
But within weeks of sending around a private link containing four songs with their now-trademark new wave bounce and hilariously deadpan vocals, the deliberately ridiculously named Wet Leg had top management and a record deal. And lest the group fall prey to the one-hit-wonder syndrome — or, worse, scrambling to write songs to follow up that hit — their self-titled debut album was recorded before the cult-fave debut single, “Chaise Longue,” was released last July.
While the album has on-the-money production as well as a pristine mix from veteran Alan Moulder (vintage Nine Inch Nails and U2, the Killers, Beach House), that seeming effortlessness and sense of fun is deep in the grooves of virtually every song, not to mention such priceless lyrics as “Is your muffin buttered / Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” and “It used to be so fun, now everything just feels dumb. … And now I’m almost 28, still getting off my stupid face.”
The music’s new-wavey pep and deadpan hauteur of their vocals recall any number of acts from 40 years ago, but Wet Leg are apparently unaware of precedents like the B-52s, Bush Tetras or Delta 5 (each of whose records are considerably older than the late-20s bandmembers). Yet those references play no small role in the group’s astounding popularity with the over-40 set: The crowd at their recent sold-out show in New York at the 1,800-capacity Brooklyn Steel was evenly divided between Gen X and Gen Z.
Yet the humor and witty wordplay can conceal Teasdale’s understated but formidable melodic flair, which is most evident on the singles “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream,” as well as “Ur Mum,” which has a maddeningly simple six-note melody that’s almost impossible to shake once you’ve heard it. (The downside of that simplicity comes on the next song, “Oh No,” which is not the strongest.)
The group has a punky, propulsive energy on “Wet Dream” and the closing “Too Late Now,” which contain passages that crank up the guitars and seem tailor-made for riling up a festival crowd. There’s even a kind-of ballad called “Loving You” that showcases the upper reaches of Teasdale’s voice, complete with a Kinks-esque “la la la” on the chorus (but we’ll bet they won’t know that reference either).
Above all, “Wet Leg” delivers on the infectious pleasure of music that was made by friends trying to make each other laugh — and we’re all in on it.