A thick cloud of intrigue looms over the debut album from W. H. Lung. Their online presence is scarce: their social media profiles are unashamed to be run by a manager. The personal touches are non-existent, something only heightened when the members are hard to track down. Once you discover the members’ names, the puzzle only hardens. Joseph E, Tom S and Tom P is all you can know and, I guess, all you need to know. The less you know, the more the music can fill you in on.
Across their debut ‘Incidental Music’, W. H. Lung reveal their identity through a clear abandonment of convention. This Manchester three-piece’s sound is distinct: an evident admiration for their city’s deep history with clubs and spacious psychedelic music. A W. H. Lung song is if The War On Drugs covered ‘Blue Monday’, further enhancing the song’s individual elements with a certain positive intensity.
If the band members’ names bring to mind local group Hookworms, the comparison does not end there. ‘Incidental Music’ walks chest-forward with the same enthusiasm and attitude of ‘Microshift’ – Hookworms’ 2018 effort. While the latter group’s album was perhaps rightfully overlooked after abuse accusations, ‘Incidental Music’ is a reset. A clean yet ambitious project where musicianship meets personality with a handshake.
For an album called ‘Incidental Music’, opening with a ten-minute sprawling number is near-parody. It centres around a heartbeat synth that builds as the snares grows louder. As the drums enter the scene and indistinct warps collide, you find yourself caught up in the journey. The instrumental hooks you in and as ninety seconds pass when the song slowly unravels, the course is set. At ten minutes, it is no easy introduction but from the beginning, it is made abundantly clear W. H. Lung are intelligent to know what elements are working and to hone in on that.
Where the lyrics waver (“Pregnant with the future, impregnated by the past“) the conviction of the vocals, combined by the pulse of the song, does more than enough to lure you in. The sixth minute finds W. H. Lung swerving towards the guitar rack while a sudden incorporation of bass takes the rein. With a punchy tempo and a determination to maintain its momentum, the opening decaminute trip never loses grip. It is rather enthralling, rather silly and completely brilliant.
‘Incidental Music’ is an exercise in entertaining embellishment. Eight songs totalling at fifty minutes, W. H. Lung are more than happy to take their time to get to the point. On ‘Second Death Of My Face’, a sensible five-minuter, they incorporate one of the best synth leads on an album packed with fantastic synth leads. It roars, making for a blistering festival favourite (silly lyrics like: “Everyone is doing great, one more scene and we’ll break for tea and cake” certainly help).
For a debut album, W. H. Lung know a thing or two about the importance of cohesion. It is an album that positions atmosphere highly, so the record’s seamless flow is a masterstroke. Blending the songs into one may highlight how slightly one-note the record is, but it certainly enhances the sonic experience.
Some of the best moments on the record date back to 2017. ‘Nothing Is’ and ‘Inspiration!’ were released as a double A-side and on the album, they maintain the brilliance. The former is blistering – a pounding track that also shows signs of soul-lifting positivity and purpose behind the pulse. Joseph E’s vocals also sound utilised, his voice is dragged down the hole the track has opened up. He has surrendered himself to the energy and let’s the track control his wistful voice.
‘Want’ is a focused stand-out; Arguably the most assertive and fully fleshed out chorus on the album. Here, the bass guitar has a crucial role – especially when plucked with a near-seductive charisma. The chant of the title allows the listener to visualise this sound in the open – something W. H. Lung could easily purpose themselves to forge.
The aforementioned grandiose of The War on Drugs springs to mind at various points on ‘Incidental Music’. This is both a blessing and a curse. Comparing a record as on-the-come-up as this with a record from an arena-playing American group is almost unfair but W. H. Lung do not want to sell themselves short. Unfortunately at times, the British outfit do underwhelm. When they make an obvious attempt at displaying versatility (‘An Empty Room’), things dampen quickly. The rhythm does not drive, rather drags its feet across the ground. Its chorus is like a Robbie Williams deep-cut from 2005 that Robbie Williams himself would have forgotten by now.
Yet on the album closer, ‘Overnight Phenomenon’, the group regain their strength. The closing six-minute adventure throbs with a constant throaty bass that sweeps you up. With some near-angelic backing vocals, it is also one of the most transcendent cuts – here, W. H. Lung finally jump off their feet and leap to the sky. It is dreamy while remaining gritty enough to keep the dancefloor shaking.
W. H. Lung have a strong desire to attack the canvas in front of them. Their songs are stretched out but tight, familiar but invigorating. On ‘Incidental Music’ where variety is sacrificed, a healthy dose of uplifting melodies and charm dominates proceedings. For a debut record, you cannot help but listen in disbelief.
‘Incidental Music’ by W. H. Lung is out now via Melodic Records