2017 has been a huge year for Wet Lips, whose prolific members seem like they can do no wrong. In the space of six short months, they have launched their own label Hysterical Records, made ties with American music distribution company Redeye hosted their third year of the queer music festival Wetfest, and are now bringing us their self-titled debut LP.
For those who are new to the three-piece band, Wet Lips have established themselves as legends within the local Melbourne queer punk scene with their DIY aesthetic, even inspiring the sound of fellow Melbourne bands like Chelsea Bleach (who have self-described their music as “wetwave”, a homage to Wet Lips’ signature garage punk sound). The band are also founders of the ever-growing annual day-long outing Wetfest, designed to create a safe space and platform for female and LGBTQIA+ acts to perform.
The highly anticipated release of their self-titled debut album encompasses an 11 track collection of raw punk cuts, most of them clocking in under the three-minute mark. Sharing vocal duties are guitarist Grace Kindellan, and bassist Jenny McKechnie (who also fronts Cable Ties), and on the drums is recently departed member Mohini, who is the other half of electronic act HABITS. She was recently replaced by Georgia Maggie, who performs with the band now. The trio’s brand of brooding garage punk rock either interchanges between restrained verses, juxtaposed with explosive heavy choruses of shouted backing vocals, or it’s like Hunx and His Punx’ brand of bubblegum punk on a menacing acid trip. Either way, they deliver excellent brooding, sinister fuzz pop that sounds on the brink of catastrophe, providing the perfect platform for the group to channel their lyrical vision.
Thematically, the lyrics dive head first into socio-political issues of gender inequality, misogyny and smashing the patriarchy, demonstrated on with lead single ‘Can’t Take it Anymore’, a witty analysis and furious criticism of the cis-gendered male-dominated punk scene. The track blasts the rigid concept of the male-identifying punk rocker archetype, by turning it on its head and throwing back the criticisms and frustrations that bands like Wet Lips deal with having an all non-male lineup, with vocalist Kindellan sarcastically bellowing “why don’t you start a band? I’d really like to hear all your opinions. you can play guitar, and you can even star, on top of lineups when you’re only beginning”, commenting on the idea that all-female bands are somewhat tokenised or dominated by all-male acts on gig lineups.
‘Period’ is a fast paced romper about exactly what you think, pioneered by Kindellan’s most ominous guitar riff yet, sounding like a downward spiral of fuzz, while reaching an increasingly intense climatic conclusion of echoing screams. ‘Hysteria’ follows suit with its menacing guitar riff containing a wailing chorus divided by verses of a brooding bassline and thumping drums (a Wet Lips staple), dished up with increasingly snarling spoken word lyricism in the verses – with the brutality delivered “fill me up, drain your cup, I’m a sponge, dry as sponge, fill me up, I’ll soak you up”. Penultimate track ‘See You Later’ retires the all-out fast-paced rock for a more mellow take on the sinister fuzz rock sound, opening with a huge distortion-heavy grunge riff, fit for the early 90s noise rock found on the likes of Hole’s Pretty on the Inside. Yet the greatest part about Wet Lips’ sound is that no matter which direction a song may take, at some point it returns to their classic sound of thumping drums and a brooding bassline, before taking off again into a ruckus of loud punk rock.
Songs aside, it is album releases like these which are ones to watch, as they not only provide a confident platform for queer artists with something to say, but also pave the way for other queer acts who may not receive ample opportunities of support. Wet Lips’ main goal is to communicate social change through music, and they have greatly succeeded here with a catchy, quick collection of punk songs, each unique and important with their themes and lyrical content. As a rebellion to the male-dominated punk scene, Wet Lips have taken it into their hands to create their own music scene – an endeavour in which they are evidently succeeding, with the big year they have had already.
If you have maxed out your music library of feminist punk, then getting your hands on this album would be the next logical step. And if you enjoy what you hear, exploring associated acts would be next, as there is an endless library and entire scene of feminist/queer punk acts in Melbourne and beyond out there to sink your teeth into.