REVIEW: W. H. Lung – Incidental Music

“Is this band named after a Chinese supermarket?” he asked, quite racistly.

There’s precious little information about them online. What we do know is they are from Manchester. And what we do know about Manchester is that there is a Chinese supermarket called W. H. Lung.

Luckily, Tom P. from the band has explained everything*:

“I thought it was funny juxtaposing those kind of austere associations with W. H. Auden and other initialled poets, writers, artists, etc. with the fact that it’s really just a Chinese supermarket.”

It’s a big laugh. Good, so we’re comfortable with some sort of Chinese supermarket analogy for exploring this album then? Yes?

Here goes…

Like a Chinese supermarket, this album contains both the familiar and the unexpected.

Is that really the best you can do?

The familiar comes from their ability to sound like a lot of other bands, mostly from the eighties.

There’s something quite Echo and the Bunnymen-y about ‘Simpatico People’.

‘Nothing Is’ borrows its melody heavily from Kasabian’s ‘L.S.F’.

‘Inspiration!’ is clear about its inspiration. We get Russel Mael’s vocals over the guitar riff from ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ by The Cult. In other places the vocals turn more Julian Cope and the guitar more The Cure.

The Cult influence reappears on ‘WANT’ as their guitar sound melds with the intro from Fischerspooner’s ‘Emerge’.

In fact, I think the guitarist has been listening to ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ hourly.

‘Second Death of My Face’ is one of A-ha’s. Or is it Gary Numan’s? Either way, someone should probably be having a word. I’d give the same advice to Glass Animals for ‘Overnight Phenomenon’.

And that’s just me and the by no means comprehensive database of sounds stored up in my head. Others have cited Neu and Talking Heads as influences. I’m sure my fellow Bastards and anyone who reads this will spot many other similarities.

I wanted to like this album a lot but the more I listened the more I struggled to get beyond the relentless banality.

And that was the unexpected part; that I didn’t like it that much.

At first I was drawn in by the intro of ‘Simpatico People’, which at nearly three minutes long builds luxuriously into a space where many album openers would already be over. This is the longest track on the album at over ten minutes yet still the prolonged overture seems out of place. It would work far better as a set opener.

At first I nodded along to the near-relentless electro-squelch, bass and guitar rhythmic combo on nearly every quaver throughout. But after a few listens it began to grate and I was crying out for something else, some variety.

At first I enjoyed listening, but soon realised that Incidental Music was simply soundtracking the background of whatever else I happened to be doing at the time. It was nominative determinism in action; it had simply become incidental music.

And so I ask again. Is that the best you can do?

I doubt this is what the band intended in terms of the music, but it leaves me puzzling about the name of the album. Why suggest that your opus, your work of art, be something good only to accompany? Maybe it’s another one of their funny jokes. I would like to see them live in the hope that this question would be answered, hopefully by their ability to focus attention, rather than a lack of other distractions. For now, they remain incidental.

*This interview is quoted in multiple places on the internet but I can’t find the original source to verify it.

Words by James Spearing.

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