ALBUMS: Wet Leg, The Linda Lindas and the New Wave of Now

The debut albums from two exciting young bands represent the very best in 21st modern rock

Wet Leg (Image: Domino Records)

May, 2021 — The Los Angeles Public Library posts a video of a live performance of “Racist Sexist Boy” by an unknown band called the Linda Lindas. It goes viral.

June, 2021 — A single from Domino Recordings, “Chaise Longue” from Wet Leg, an even more unknown duo that goes even more viral, as does a follow up single, “Wet Dream,” in September.

Several months later, there’s a chance to get an even broader look at the viral bands as they have each just released their debut albums — Growing Up from the Linda Lindas and Wet Leg’s self-titled.

Wet Leg’s debut is not a completely unknown quantity at this point. Half of its 12 songs have been released as singles. They also played a number of sold out shows throughout the U.S. in March.


Artist: Wet Leg

Album: Wet Leg

Label: Domino Records

★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars) 


When “Chaise Longue” first began to hit, buoyed by alternative radio airplay, the reception was mostly heavy enthusiasm with a bit of “are they for real?” upon getting a whiff of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the song.

Singer/rhythm guitarist Rhian Teasdale and lead guitarist/backing vocalist Hester Chambers are the latest iteration of the strain of post-punk/new wave with deadpan talk-singing. Go back around 40 years and think The Flying Lizards, the Bush Tetras’ “Too Many Creeps”, the Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like” and Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never”, for starters.

There’s a healthy dose of knowingly wink-wink, nudge-nudge in “Chaise Longue”, from the opening verse’s “Mummy, daddy, look at me/I went to school and I got a degree/All my friends call it the big D/I went to school and I got the big D” to the second verse’s “Mean Girls” quoting lines about buttered muffins through the third verse’s “Is your mother worried? Would you like us to assign someone to worry your mother?” which is one of those great deadpan lines that one’s surprised hadn’t come before.

One obvious reason Wet Leg connected to a degree that even surprised Teasdale and Chambers off the bit was their way with a hook. “Chaise Longue” seemed genetically engineered to stick in the brain. “Wet Dream” is similarly smart, funny and a tad dirty, with the lyrics putting a would-be suitor into his own fantasy where “I’ve got ‘Buffalo 66’ on DVD” is a successful come-on (which, not a glaring red flag like “Brown Bunny”, but still).

Wet Leg Wet Leg, Domino Records 2022

Then the chorus, evoking Elastica’s first album, hits and, just like that, Wet Leg was 2-for-2 in planting earworms.

The album as a whole shows those first two singles aren’t outliers. Wet Leg is a veritable hookfest.

Take “Ur Mum”, the latest in the lineage of sweetly-sung kiss-off songs, where Teasdale sings about leaving her partner for sitting there stoned and eating mayonnaise out of the jar in the same caramelized coo that she tells him “You’re always so full of it/Yeah, why don’t you just suck my dick?”

And then it gets to that chorus that’ll dislodge “Chaise Longue” or “Wet Dream” from your head.

There’s a delight in the humorous details. “Angelica” has the rush when those loud, distorted guitars kick in, but it’s a humorous tale of trying to amuse yourself at a party you’d rather leave. Teasdale imagines the titular friend doing more absurd things — bringing lasagna and eventually obliterating everyone with a ray gun (complete with “pew pew” backing sounds from Chambers).

There’s the post-breakup “Piece of Shit”, where it’s clear Teasdale is all but saying, “Okay, whatever” every time her ex opens his mouth, whether he’s berating her, insisting that he’s the “nice guy” or thinking that he can get back with her by telling her he’s actually thinking of her while having sex with someone else on his dad’s boat.

While the ex is a “Piece of Shit”, the song “Supermarket” is not about a trip to the local Tesco’s. It’s stoner slackercore, where a meeting with a partner’s parents goes awry from being too high, but at least the dealer’s been known to offer a “buy one, get one free” deal.

The consistency of Wet Leg’s assuredness and approach was baked in. They didn’t have to try to back up a viral moment as the album was recorded before “Chaise Longue” was even released.

 

VIDEO: Wet Leg “Chaise Longue”

Teasdale and Chambers had tried to do music before, in a quieter folk vein. Sets by Big Thief and Idles at the End of the Road Festival in 2019 changed that, as they decided they wanted to do something different, with more fun and more guitars. 

Yet for all the humor and snark, there’s some existential sincerity underneath. For their talk of having “silly fun,” they’re serious in their craft.

Album opener “Being In Love” is a happy sugar rush about, well, being in love. 

“I Don’t Want To Go Out” captures the malaise of the pandemic and the emptiness of the influencer with nothing behind them (“And now I’m almost 28/Still getting off my stupid face/A fucking nightmare”).

“Convincing” sticks as well. A song of Gen Z self-doubt and ennui, Chambers sings the chorus in a way that makes one picture an alternate universe where Tanya Donelly remained in the Breeders and got to sing lead on more songs.

Wet Leg finishes with the chiming, reverb-coated guitars of “Too Late Now,” a song about being in your 20s and realizing this is your adulthood and that’s it not how you pictured it. It’s a lovely capper to an album that’s more sly and artful than the band’s 2021 Flavor of the Month status would suggest.

Teasdale and Chambers may have made this album not expecting any hype for it, a party for themselves. But it’s an inviting party that you want to stick around until the end. And who needs a ray gun when you can just pull out an album full of catchy gems like these?

 

 

The Linda Lindas, meanwhile, had a few songs from Growing Up out early, but haven’t done any widespread touring, understandably unsurprising given that the band – guitarists Lucia de la Garza and Bela Salazar, bassist Eloise Wong, and drummer Mila de la Garza – range in age from 11 to 17.


Artist: The Linda Lindas 

Album: Growing Up

Label: Epitaph Records

★★★★ (4/5 stars) 


Put it this way–the No. 1 alternative song the year the band’s youngest member — Mila — was born was “Uprising” by Muse.

It’s hard to go from the 9:30 Club to the Beachland Ballroom to the Crocodile over a span of weeks when you have homework and it’s a school night.

It might be tempting to be skeptical, with their youth and connections (producer Carlos de la Garza, a Grammy-winning mixer who’s worked with likes of Beached, Best Coast and Paramore is a father of two band members and uncle to a third). But that’s only if one hasn’t heard them.

 

VIDEO: The Linda Lindas “Racist Sexist Boy”

“Racist Sexist Boy” is here, of course. Sure, the language may be age appropriate (“Poser/Blockhead/Riffraff/Jerkface”), but the snarling fury is still there. After all, the misogynist bros who drew a riot grrl’s ire back in the day were often annoying little well, let’s go with jerkfaces, when they were still kids. And considering the band’s members are of Chinese, Mexican and Salvadoran descent, racism out of the mouths of other children is going to understandably draw their ire.

Anyone expecting nothing but songs that sound like “Racist Sexist Boy” will be left wanting, because, like Wet Leg, the Linda Lindas are also pretty fond of hooks, of the kind found on numerous punk pop records or the Donnas before they wanted to remind people they were also metalheads. 

The title track, full of determined optimism (“We’ll never cave or we’ll never waver/And we’ll always become braver and braver”), sounds like the catchiest Paramore hit that Paramore never had.. It’s an understandable influence given that they share a producer and that Paramore’s discography is quite capable of speaking to girls of that age, regardless of city, county, state or country. 

The bouncy “Talking to Myself” deals with introspection and loneliness, delivered with another hook sure to start some pogoing.

Growing Up is a band effort. The four members all handle vocal duties over the course of its crisp runtime of 10 songs in just over 25 1/2 minutes.

Wong sings “Why”,  universal young girl angst with a strutting groove on the verses giving way to a deft singalong chorus, a throwback in appeal, if not sound going all the way back to the ’60s.

The Linda Lindas Growing Up, Epitaph Records 2022

Salazar tackles similar turf in the Spanish-language “Cuantas Veces” (which translates to “How Many Times” in English). Here, though, it’s about finding self-acceptance in the face of mockery and ignorance from others. It’s musically lighter in the verses, offering slight echoes of retro Europop before the alternative rock chorus kicks in. 

Shedding the angst and casting off the ignorance of others, Salazar has a blast singing “Nino”, a quick punchy ode to her cat, “the friendliest cat you’ll ever meet” who’s also “the savage cat/Killer of mice and rats.” It screams for Shonen Knife to pay tribute with a cover.

By keeping things short and sweet, the Linda Lindas avoid filler. “Fine” channels some of “Racist Sexist Boy” to point out that things are anything but fine. “Magic” is glistening new wave with heavier guitars.

The Linda Lindas (Image: Epitaph Records)

The band’s name indirectly comes from the Japanese punk band Blue Hearts’ song “Linda Linda” by way of a charming 2005 Japanese film called “Linda Linda Linda,” about a group of high school students who form a band to play Blue Hearts covers at a school talent show in a few days.

If someone made a film like that about a bunch of school girls doing Linda Lindas songs at the talent show, “Remember” would be the song playing over the closing credits, a bouncy final rush of optimism (“Maybe tomorrow will be / Bigger, better, bolder / Maybe today was just the calm before the storm”).

The Linda Lindas may be young, but being able to put out an album like Growing Up at this stage, considering they’ve only been in existence three years, bodes well for them artistically.

As with Wet Leg, they’ve put together a debut that offers plenty of memorable moments while leaving you looking forward to what they do next, well past the random lightning-in-a-bottle virality.

 

 

 

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