The more refined among you may remember I started this series back in April, with the very noble intention of creating a birthday present for myself – 60 musical recommendations from online friends to mark the fact I had just turned 60 years of age. It come as no surprise to me that I find myself unable to stick to the brief – me, who used to turn around four album reviews in an hour for Melody Maker, and who once ran a series called “the one-minute review” on my Brisbane-based website Collapse Board, asking “Why spend longer writing than someone will spend reading your words?” Why indeed? (That series lost me at least one good friend. She objected to my dismissive language.)
So now we are several months on and not even halfway through. My 16-year-old son Isaac has a pro Spotify subscription; through it, he listens to the music of his choice (strange dark East European gothwave that to folk my age sounds uncannily like suburban UK music from the early 80s, and a smattering of Riot Grrrl) and music that is recommended to him by the algorithms. This is not weird to him; indeed, it is part of what he pays (or rather, I pay) his subscription for – recommendations. This was a function previously filled by music critics, of course – but when the gates are automated, there is no need for gatekeepers. When I was younger, a sure fire way to make me dislike a song was to recommend it with the following words, “I think you’ll really like this…” so heaven forbid I should go with those fucking algorithms but the past is a foreign country (as LP Hartley once wrote), they do things differently there.
So this morning, trying to force myself to engage with the outside world and not just listen to a solid day of me singing at the piano (which is my standard musical fare), I finally succumbed. Every time I switch to YouTube to research another potential cover version or discover what Neil Kulkarni has been listening to, the video for Wet Leg’s ‘Chaise Lounge’ shows up at the top of my feed. I know nothing, NOTHING about Wet Leg except that the same fucking video keeps showing up in my repetitive Facebook feed… you know the one, the one where, no matter how many times you refresh the screen, the same impassioned diatribe from David Stubbs about some right-wing journalist you’ve never heard of shows up at the top of your feed. Yep, ‘Chaise Lounge’.
Not interested. Fuck off, corporate slave-bots.
But I succumbed. I thought I’d give it a 10-second listen. Bugger it. Fuck it all to hell. I’ve played it three times already before breakfast, and want to discover more. No (he says, wrestling fiercely with his own sense of self-worth) I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR MORE. Bugger it all to hell. This is great. Deadpan and repetitive and obscure and smart and ticks all the boxes I love to have ticked in music: it builds and fades, it makes a big deal out of insignificant details, it reminds me of late 70s Ze Records, it has poise and fuck-you grace… goddamn it all.
Heaven forbid I should fall for this.
*Oh wait. I just did some 10-second research and have discovered that far from being some corporate-funded suck-ass rick kid duo from the Midwest of America, Wet Leg are from the Isle of Wight and are signed to Domino and this is their first and only video so far. Ah…. well, fucking cool! Great. I love the Isle of Wight – want to go there this summer with my kids again, see our great friend Bianca Kiddo Wheeler; and I have a real soft spot for Domino Recordings because of past shared history. They, the good guys.
Stella? Stella who?