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Let’s Wrestle - In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s

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Artist: Let’s Wrestle

Album: In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s

Label: Merge

Review date: Apr. 9, 2010

Brit pranksters Let’s Wrestle stirred up sufficient hype upon the release of their debut LP last summer to catch the ears of American mega-indie Merge Records. Buffed up for a stateside release, In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s presents a prime opportunity for a virtually unknown band to endear themselves to the independent rock cognoscenti. While the title’s nod to King Crimson may get more mileage in the UK, the band’s shambolic, wit-saturated sound is likely to make a splash this side of the pond.

To more cynical ears, the band’s brand of pop playfulness may seem an iffy proposition. At heart a "punk record," albeit one not starved of ballads and ba-da-das, the album focuses on jumpy, lo-fi tunes and humorous lyrics. Such a tactic can often lead to a sense that the band’s output is part of an elaborate inside joke — one that doesn’t translate as well to those not in the know.

Thankfully, these dudes — singer/guitarist Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, bassist/vocalist Mike Lightning and drummer Darkus Bishop — do a fine job of remembering that the wit will only have a lasting impression if it’s built into some solid songs. The album’s opening handful of tracks present a solid case for believing in Let’s Wrestle’s hype. Opener "My Arms Don’t Bend That Way, Damn It!" is two and a half minutes of jangling guitars and disaffected vocals that manages lyrics about suicide without devolving into bummer-rock cliche. "I’m In Love With Destruction" could be late-period Guided By Voices, all sweeping hooks and beer-buzz emotion. "Tanks" is better yet; the album’s prime example of Gonzalez’s wordplay falling perfectly into step with the kitchen sink production. The album-ending title track finds the band throwing down a heavy, guitar-destruction jam — the track sounds like a purposeful ‘gotcha’ to listeners who reach the end of the record questioning whether the band have run thin on tricks.

Throughout the record, the production is decidedly lo-fi, with a constantly crackling upper register. As evidenced by the eerie backing vocals on "My Schedule," the band know their way around a studio — they just choose to wear a blindfold while at the board.

When the band falters, such as on the cloying "Diana’s Hair," the disparate elements — lyrics, production, musicianship — fail to form into something other than amateurish sing-and-strum. Here, Let’s Wrestle sound little different than the third-rate indie mediocrity being churned out by betweeded English Lit students on liberal arts campuses ‘round the globe.

It will be interesting to see how Let’s Wrestle develop, especially now that the eyes of the underground are upon them. If Gonzalez and group are able to continue refining their unique brew of quality and kitsch, the results may well prove remarkable. If not? Well, then the joke’s on us.

By Ethan Covey

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