Monday, February 6, 2023

"What Are We Doing Here? I Dunno. But Here We Are!"

I had absolutely no intention of following one music post with another. That would just be cruel. I also had absolutely no intention of commenting on the Grammys this year. I did it once and I think I got away with it but there's no sense tempting fate.

However, sometimes circumstances conspire and things happen that simply can't be ignored. This is one them.

Bizarrely - or perhaps not, if you follow my methodology - there's no tag for Wet Leg on this blog. There really should be, since I keep writing about them. (And there is, now.) A search query finds ten posts, just about all of them including a video. Anyone would think I liked them or something.

I first wrote about the band on July 22 2021, the same day I discovered them by way of a post on Everett True's now-dormant blog How NOT To Write About Music, a problem Everrett seems to have solved pretty handily by just stopping. I have no plans to follow his lead in that regard but I thank him once again for introducing me to the band he originally, if wildly inaccurately, assumed to be "some corporate-funded suck-ass rich kid duo from the Midwest of America".

As everyone now knows, they are not. They're from the Isle of Wight. At the time, that was pretty much all anyone did know about them. As they've risen to international fame, more has been revealed, including much that contradicts and confounds some of the more romantic myths about how the band was formed. They do not, after all, appear to have fallen quite so green from the tree as once was thought.

Still, they have no real form before the astonishing reveal that introduced their laconic, affectless, whimsical motorik drone to the world in a video now revealed to be the Best Alternative Music Performance of last year - in the eyes of the Grammy electorate, at least. Even if it actually arrived the year before. 

The band seem as bemused by the whole thing as, frankly, I am. I mean, to be nominated for the Mercury is one thing, even if you lose, but I always think of the Grammys as an exceptionally American institution. I'm kind of surprised to find any UK acts in the nominations at all. 

Added to that, when you consider the other UK artists who also got recognized this year, specifically the ones against whom Wet Leg were competing, you're looking at bands who've been around for years; bands with global profiles: Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine. And the rest of the nominees included Bjork ffs!

Not that the video for Chaise Longue doesn't deserve to be included in its category, where the list of nominees was strikingly similar. It's one of the best pop videos period, let alone the best "alternative" and not just of last year but of all time. The song, too, is a classic. I hope its creators remain as fond of it twenty-five years from now, when it's undoubtedly still going to be the one number from their back catalog they'll still absolutely have to play at every gig.

It's a big assumption, that Wet Leg will still be a thing going into the second half of the 21st century but these days no-one ever stops and one signature tune everyone remembers and can yell along to is pretty much all you're ever going to need. Of course, having just won what's probably the biggest award in popular music for making the best album in their weight class, first time out, no less, chances are they'll have more than one song to remember them by, come 2050.

Right now, though, I imagine the whole thing seems like a fever dream. When Rhian Teasdale made the first acceptance speech, for the Performance award she made no attempt to conceal her disbelief. With glorious understatement she observed "This year has been so surprising". For all of us, Rhian.

It's puzzled me for a while, the way every news report, review or opinion piece on Wet Leg refers to the band as a duo. It seems odd to relegate the other three musicians to the role of sidemen. It was heartening, then, to see drummer Henry Holmes take the mic for the second award and even more heartening to hear him describe the band as "one big, fucked up family." 

Given the exceptional level of fame and success this DIY project has achieved in just a couple of years, I suspect they're going to need that level of emotional support as they build what could and most likely will be a long and successful career. My closing comments from a year and a half ago, when I expressed doubt that the promised "string of releases", planned to follow Chaise Longue would ever materialize, look pretty silly now.

To add an element of realism to this otherwise positively surreal story, Wet Leg did not win the biggest award they were up for last night. While they dominated the relatively niche "Alternate" categories, they were unsuccessful in the much more prestigious, non-genre-based "Best New Artist". That was taken by Samara Joy, a jazz singer of some repute, with whose work I am wholly unfamiliar.

A typically wilful and idiosyncratic selection by the electorate, some might say. I couldn't possibly comment. I'll let Chris deVille at Stereogum do that for me:

"You never want to rule out the chance that the Grammys will reward a jazz artist just to remind you they’re the Grammys. Young singer Samara Joy could feasibly pull an Esperanza Spalding, given that she’s unleashing her rich alto on music that feels like it was in the same ultra-respectable mid-20th century milieu where many in the Academy’s brains seem stuck."

Curiously, despite having been a very early adopter, a fan to the extent of having a framed copy of one of their seven-inch singles on my wall, I don't really listen to Wet Leg all that often. They may have won the award for best album but they seem to me to be an archetypal singles band, best suited to be heard booming unexpectedly out of the windows of a passing car as it cruises by with all the windows wound down or popping up, suddenly and joyously, on MTV or whatever passes for music television these days. A whole album's a bit too much of a good thing. I find listening to it all the way through feels a bit like eating an entire box of chocolates on my own, self-indulgent and ulitimately enervating.

Anyway, congratulations to them all and here's to whatever they'll do next. One thing's for sure; the world's going to be watching, now. 

So, no pressure there, guys...

1 comment:

  1. Here ya go:


    -- 7rlsy


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