It seems to me that there are a number of contradictions with the way WH Lung have moved from their first album to this, their second. The band, named after a Chinese cash and carry in their native Manchester, have definitely refined their sound over the two year interregnum since 2019’s ’Incidental Music’… but in a way that seems a little counter intuitive to what has been going on in the background.
‘Incidental Music’ was a very good album which featured in many people’s ’best of’ lists for that year and, for instance, topped Manchester’s Piccadilly Records year ender. It was a wonderful mix of pop, electronica, psychedelia, krautrock and dance music that the band blended together in a coherent package which, for me, has only got better over time… check out such as ’Simpatico People’ and ’Nothing Is’, both of which showcase this album brilliantly… see below for more.
Now if you told me that the next album would be one in which the psychedelic and kraut elements were tuned down, I would have probably dismissed it as being something that was not for me. However, if anything, the opposite has happened and I think that ‘Vanities’ is a wonderful step forward… it is an album that is so full of life and so physically powerful that I defy anyone not to get out there and dance to it. It is very much an album of the night… of the city… of the dancefloor. It’s an album for having fun with… and feels very much reflective of the sort of evening where you find yourself flinging your arms in the air and just going for it.
…and here’s the contradiction… because ‘Vanities’ was conceived in the countryside during lockdown after main songwriting duo Joe Evans and Tom Sharkett moved out of Manchester to much more rural Todmorden before everything shut down. They, like many of us, spent the pandemic communing with nature… far away from the dancefloor. Whatever it was it seems that lockdown was a very creative time for the band, something that we now all get to benefit from with this record.
Which bring me to how I have engaged with the record. As I said given the general sonic vibe I would not have expected to be into this at all… but I have been noticing something of a trend in music that I seem to connect with, whatever the genre… that is that the artists involved have nearly all talked about getting inspiration from walking in the countryside… something which is central to the way I experience life. Perhaps, then, there is something in these ostensibly dance tracks that is organic and at root natural… at one both with the forest and Studio 54 (or perhaps even the Haçienda).
This might be the reason why the beginning of the opening track ’Calm Down’ just bites right into me, not only physically but in quite a soulful way too… and from then on I am just sold as the band tear through a series of anthemic performances which barely pause for breath, so by the time you get to penultimate number ’Somebody Like’ you need to be fed by such a lovely melody which gives you a second wind to take the whole thing home.
Half way through writing this I was struck by the thought that I have to see this band live, and had to check out any tour that might be happening… so with a ticket now booked for their show at my favourite venue, The Brudenell in Leeds, for December I need to get myself in shape for what I’m sure is going to be a really high energy gig… can’t wait!
‘Vanities’ is out now on Melodic Records.
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