Half a decade on from their winsome indie-rock debut In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s, the London quartet are to drop their Fortuna POP! debut, which is eponymous, and their third LP in total. Continuing the theme of having amazing producers assist them in the studio – their sophomore record, Nursing Home, had Steve Albini twiddling knobs – Let’s Wrestle have enlisted Test Icicles alum Rory Atwell, more recently famous for steering The Vaccines, to guide them through the process.
The wonderfully titled “Codeine and Marshmallows” serves as lead single. Guitars and drums shuffle in tandem, and lead vocalist/songwriter Wesley Patrick Gonzalez croons with an apt vagueness through the psychedelic pop fug. Violins pierce through and country-western riffs provide a jolt of intrigue, and while it’s not a boisterous swagger back into the limelight, it’s nice enough. The opiate streak slogs on with ‘Opium Den’, a sort-of, kind-of post-punk revival track circa 2004, complete with squawky fart-brass synths, with elongated wailing hooks that clock you upside the fizzog like a blunt harpoon. They’re right there, going on, and on, and on. Great if you’re doing drunk karaoke at 3am but not so gre- actually that’s pretty awesome.
In the description of the record, we’re told that this record demonstrates Gonzalez’ passion for ’60s psychedelia and ’70s pop – nodding to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Kinks, apparently – and while you can hear pop moments and psych fragments, it’s not an obvious sonic epoch acting as inspiration. Perhaps that’s the grand illusion, a masterful display of subtlety? Perhaps. While there have been a few changes, like the inclusion of brass and strings, it still mostly feels unchanged – fuzzy guitar-based indie/grunge-pop with funny lyrics.
The record is labelled as an “open account of Gonzalez’s life during the transition to adulthood”. It’s the product of Gonzalez exiting his youth and swanning into adulthood bleary-eyed and shit-stained with terror. A noble goal most of us can relate to; and as poignant and witty as Gonzalez’s words are – they’re the album’s strongest factor – the core tenet feels false. Adding a few different instruments does not cutting-edge make. As ‘coming of age’ records go, it’s remarkably not yet of age. It’s the musical equivalent of an eco-warrior lambasting everyone for not recycling a can whilst all the while chugging down KFC bones and sat on a whale carcass. It’s not to say they should eschew their entire selling-point and their musical identity – that’s ridiculous – but some steps into unknownlands would be welcome, and would demonstrate how much they’ve transitioned. Maybe the point of the record is to lament getting older, and therein never budge an inch, simply out of stubborn sourness?
For the most part, Let’s Wrestle fits snugly under one banner: Los Campesinos! dragged through a scuzzy thicket with a Damon Albarn impersonator on mic duties. There’s little to get excited about here – there’s no wheel reinventing, no formula shake-up, no scrawling outside any boxes… it’s just pleasant, familiar indie-rock that verges on wishy-washy. There’s nothing that’ll make you gag or do a spit-take, and it’ll bumble along in the background ad infinitum if you’ll let it. Considering how indie-rock’s basically like an unstable nuclear reactor at the moment, shooting sparks and, even if it’s misguided upon occasion, ingenuity, Let’s Wrestle are just watching from a safe distance, swaddled in goggles.
All that said, the saxophone solo in “Care For You” is fantastic. More of that next time please.