Let’s Wrestle’s sophomore album, Nursing Home, is about as bland an effort as a glance at its tracklisting might suggest, with each innocuous song title betraying the pervasive feeling of ennui that is at the heart of this disappointing follow up to their overlooked debut. Let’s Wrestle’s first album, In The Court Of Wrestling Let’s, flaunted songs with titles that mirrored the energy contained in the music -- “We Are The Men You’ll Grow To Love Soon,” “I’m In Love With Destruction,” and “My Arms Don’t Bend That Way, Damn It!”. Nursing Home, unfortunately, continues this tradition with terse, scaled-back titles like “Getting Rest,” “In The Suburbs,” and “I’m So Lazy” reflecting the scaled-back ambitions of a band that seems like it yearns to be overlooked.
Musically, Let’s Wrestle still peddle an irony-tinged version of the same guitar heavy sound that their '90s revivalist peers do. But thanks to the recording efforts of Steve Albini, the band now sports a suitably rumbling low-end that gives these otherwise anemic cuts some rhythmic punch. What continues to distinguish Let’s Wrestle from their peers are the neurotic lyrics and squawked vocals courtesy of nerdy frontman Wesley Patrick Gonzalez. And while Albini has managed to reign in some of Gonzalez’s more abrasive tics, his voice is still the most divisive but integral aspect of the band’s sound.
On In The Court, Gonzalez’s vocals were raw and exuberant as he tossed off self-deprecating witticisms like “they said if you want to help, just kill yourself.” If you could overlook his affectations, Gonzalez was an affable and extroverted frontman who possessed a burgeoning, Malkmus-esque gift for penning cryptic and idiosyncratic lyrics. On Nursing Home, Gonzalez’s songwriting has become lyrically introverted and irritatingly juvenile. For instance, on “In The Suburbs” he sings joyously of the infantilizing appeal in having dinner with his mother and staying up all night playing computer games in the basement. Gonzalez leaves open the possibility that romance might be able to breach his hermetic existence on “If I Keep On Loving You,” but even here he childishly demands that “I want you in my room right now,” seemingly unwilling to exert even a minimal amount of effort to get laid.
The obvious nadir of Gonzalez’s regression into adolescence has to be the cringe inducing and strangely dated reference to the Pokémon character Pidgeotto on opener “In Dreams Part II,” a moment just over a minute into the album that will almost certainly mark where the majority of listeners will end their involvement. To do so would miss the embarrassment that is “There’s A Rockstar In My Room,” on which Gonzalez sings, “One day I’d like to find a rockstar in my room, but they wouldn’t want to stay, they’d want to leave soon.” It’s like even in Gonzalez’s fantasies he can’t help but shake the feeling he’s not any fun to be around anymore.
Beyond its trivia value for its role in resolving the disparate worlds of Steve Albini and collectible monster games, Nursing Home really doesn’t have much to offer beyond twelve homogenous sounding songs about self-pity and boredom. It’s a huge step back for the version of Let’s Wrestle that was displayed on In The Court; the confident, cocky, witty band that made good albums and didn’t spend the majority of its time playing computer games in the basement.
Merge Records, after handling the U.S. release of Let's Wrestle's debut album In the Court of the Wrestling Let's, picked them up for a sophomore release as well. The London trio recorded Nursing Home in Chicago with Steve Albini. As the titles suggest, Nursing Home is a darker affair than In the Court of the Wrestling Let's, but the band's trademark humor is still a part of the mix - lead singer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez apparently likened the record to Thin Lizzy and The Cars, and lead single "Dear John" contains the line, "You've got the worst hairdos, and you hang out with old men."