A year or so ago, the wobbly rock of Let’s Wrestle – ramshackle, raucous, utterly delightful – felt like a bit of a private passion between a small group of friends and myself. The London trio’s sketchily stripped-back arrangements, primitive in design but punchy enough to leave their mark, were drunk down and spewed up – sing-along-friendly fare for critics needing a break from so much sour-faced seriousness.
But there was always something at the heart of the tunes that made up mini-album ‘In Loving Memory Of…’, recipient of a deserved 9/10 review with my previous employers, so damn addictive – the deadpan vocals could grate, but the lyrics sparkled; the basslines frolicked, always driving onwards, while the perfunctory drumming was a perfect percussive accompaniment. Everything was the right kind of minimal – through necessity, perhaps, but none the worse for it. In fact, the group’s apparent naivety was most endearing.
Now, many more ears have opened, and hearts swelled to the sounds of Wesley Patrick Gonzales, Mike Lightning and Darkus Bishop, and their singularly stupid/superb take on lo-fi slacker-rock: think Yo La Tengo singing nursery rhymes after necking ten pints of cough medicine, or The Fall with all players’ tongues coated in that fizz-popping candy: it’s super-sweet but full of bite, full of spirit and the purest passion for their chosen art. There is attention to detail aplenty, even if the details are largely broad, the nuances actually more like gigantic fists that pound your skull for three minutes at a time.
A great deal of this record’s appeal lies in the lyricism of Gonzales, whose meandering stories entrance with their muddled cocktail of everyday dreariness – ‘My Schedule’ is, essentially, a list of things he’ll do in the day, albeit set to a swooning shimmer of guitar and drums – and expressive surrealism – ‘Insects’ finds our protagonist troubled by bugs which may or may not be there, since they’re getting into his head and coming out of his fingers. ‘In Dreams’ is a beautiful ballad addressed at a fantasy girl, acutely tender in its articulating of emotion – but while Let’s Wrestle have you all awww one minute, the next they’re hammering away at their fragile instruments with efforts like ‘I Won’t Lie To You’, a brilliant anthem to self-defeatists. Lead single ‘We Are The Men You’ll Grow To Love Soon’ is a wonderfully mischievous ditty, again brimming with absurd/genius matter-of-fact wordplay, and was Single of the Week here on ClashMusic.com only seven days ago.
‘In The Court Of The Wrestling Let’s’ – yes, the title is a nod to King Crimson – is the kind of collection that offers something special for each and every day of the week. When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and feel like sticking your fingers into the eyes of all the dicks on the Tube who assume you had a rough one the night before, there’s something to sooth that burn; if it’s a burst of energy you’re needing, to feel invigorated after actually having a rough one the night before, they offer such a service too. And if you just want a laugh, there’s loads to be had here. Not that Let’s Wrestle aren’t serious about what they create – you can’t craft such seemingly simple songs without really being very accomplished. It’s elementary Les Dawson Theory.
So, world, enjoy. There’s so much good to Let’s Wrestle, such a great deal of dumb-smile glee conveyed with this album, that it’s a perfect pick-me-up for any occasion. It’s Buzzcocks-goes-Daniel Johnston, with a little Guided By Voices on the side, erudite and desperate, and everything mentioned above and yet a lot, lot more. And it’s a pleasure to share it, and them, with you.