Fuck the sophomore slump. Not so much that conceptual idea of the phrase, but the literal wording itself. Fuck it. Sophomore Slouch maybe; or possibly the Sophomore Setback. But a slump, that is marginally dooming the artist after they have presumably just entered the game. Sure the word fits – it is not like whoever coined the term was wrong in their assertion – but recently the term is likened more to a prolonged streak of half-assed performances from someone proven to be better. Who’s to say one bad album is the beginning of a trend? Or those two albums are enough to consider someone a weathered veteran?
Point is: the term is generally used when white-hot hype for a follow up is doused in the reality that sometimes ambition and earnest cannot always outweigh quality. If we desire this captivation via rapturous listening experiences so passionately; then why use such biting words? I prefer rather to look at an album like, say, Nursing Home, the second record from quirky British punk trio Let’s Wrestle as their Sophomore Slip-Up. The band is talented but this record is bland; a severe disappointment after the excellent In the Court of The Wrestling Let’s (2009.) But Nursing Home has enough raw energy and witty lyricism to avoid any cause for alarm or sweeping predictions.
Production legend Steve Albini lends his particularly gritty and rigid techniques and talents to Let’s Wrestle behind the boards and the band should strongly consider subsequent collaborations. Albini and this band are a production match made in heaven – it is just unfortunate the band’s hooks cannot stand as tall as their bridges and witty turns of phrase. Whereas lead singer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez was essentially untethered on the band’s debut he seems firmly leashed on Nursing Home. Whether this was a recording choice or evolution of the band remains to be seen but it is not Albini’s production suffocating Nursing Home. It is the excellent verses surrounding near non-existent hooks. Call it a causality of progress. You can hear Let’s Wrestle on the verge of something exceptional but they never quite reach out and grasp it. Songs like “Bad Mammaries,” “Dear John,” “Getting Rest.” “For My Mother,” “I Am Useful” and “There’s a Rockstar In My Room” come close. Resting on the laurels of the Weezer meets Super Grass guitar-rock they excelled in while dabbling in hardcore punk, grunge, Southern rock, twee-pop and British ska.
You could call Nursing Home the wrong record from the right band or a slip-up, slump, whatever. Even as most of the album bleeds together, few tracks independent from the next, Gonzales is still magnetizing. “One day I’d like to find!/A rockstar in my room!” he wails, playful as ever and blissfully ignorant of his own musical chops. He may not be there yet and Nursing Home is unquestionably disappointing but Gonzalez puts it best on “I Forgot:” “You know I’ll/always be there for you/But I may be/a few hours late.” Let’s Wrestle will get there eventually and Nursing Home has enough sugar-charged indie-rock to keep us all waiting here for them to finally arrive.
2. If I Keep On Loving You
3. In The Suburbs
4. Bad Mammaries
5. Dear John
6. For My Mother
7. I'm So Lazy
8. There's a Rockstar in My Room
9. I Forgot
10. I am Useful
11. I Will Not Give In
12. Getting Rest
Let's Wrestle are an indie rock band based in London, UK consisting of Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, Sam Pillay and Darkus Bishop.
The band's debut album - In The Court Of The Wrestling Let's - was released in the UK on 29 June 2009 via Stolen Recordings and in the US a year later on Merge Records.
The band's second album Nursing Home was released on Merge Records and Full Time Hobby in May 2011.
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