Vanities by W. H. Lung Album Review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions



W. H. Lung

Despite the existential dread of living through a pandemic, for some (and I stress for some and not all), the period from March 2020 to the mid-summer of that year, felt like the world finally stopped and caught its breath. Even though a deadly virus was spreading across the globe, there was a sense of calm, which was clearly unpinned by waves of nervous anxiety.

Understandably many creative types took the opportunity forced upon them by quarantine to throw themselves into their art, hence the steady flow of ‘lockdown’ albums. For the likes of Taylor Swift to The Killers, their recent outputs have reflected the stillness of a world paused, whereas Manchester post-punks W. H. Lung approached their sophomore album ‘Vanities’ with a different modus operandi. The five piece’s wiry wares owe a lot to the dancefloor and indeed Manchester, which is known for its fertile history as far as dance music goes. Rather than representing a moment of peacefulness, the band opted to capture the euphoria of sweaty clubs and the combined joy of people all in one room losing their collective minds (with no life threatening disease lurking in the air). Singer Joe Evans ruminates on ‘Vanities’ birth and the situation he found himself in when creating the band’s latest work “lockdown gave me the time to pour work into myself and out came this wonderful album. It was strange at first and I missed seeing my mates and having a laugh and dancing but this album is a direct reflection of creative flow brought on by the space given by lockdown.”

‘Vanities’ is a record rooted in a rich vitality and one that implores the listener to dance (or squirm around in their seat – whatever your jam is). The album is a wash of staccato rhythms, jagged beats, liquid synths and razor thin guitars, twinned with Evans’ choirboy falsetto, which is matched by Hannah Peace’s (synths/vocals), equally dulcet delivery. Thematically there’s an ambiguity to W. H. Lung’s second outing, leaving the group’s lyrics open to interpretation. Although some of the wordplay is perhaps less vague than others. Bubbling synths lead to the post-punk disco slither found on album opener ‘Calm Down’, which has Evans coo “calm down/let your anger out” like a man who’s channelling a decent amount of zen. ‘ARPi’ invokes the serenity of Oriental shrines and temples with its watery, cyclical beats and vapour-like synths. It’s a song that takes you on an adventure, one that invokes perpetual movement and a sense of unity “it’s holy when we’re together” and “we go for miles” typify this. ‘Somebody Like’ embraces fidgeting quiet/loud shifting dynamics, with the core of the track a straight up banger. Prior to the chorus’ rabblerousing explosion of joyous noise, Evans cuts the silhouette of someone struggling with some mental health challenges “I’m so tired of being so tired/can’t keeping hiding from my mind”. ‘Showstopper’ slows the pace down to a shadowy 80s wiggle through to post-punk’s more theatrical leanings, as the group’s mouthpiece purrs “fear the future” like a man burnt out by global crisis after global crisis. ‘Pearl in the Palm’ is one big shapeshifting dichotomy; choppy guitars, constant effervescent synths and a steadfast beat fuel the song’s awkward gait while Evan’s delivers the sweet and sour lyrics “champagne for everybody here/real pain for everybody else/everything is happening here/right now/it’s all misery and suffering” with the same gusto as James Murphy leading LCD Soundsystem through another sprawling danceable epic.

‘Vanities’ represents a melancholic celebration of life, where joy, sadness and anxiety are linked by symbioses. You might say it’s a true depiction of what it is to be human in 2021 – warts and all.

Order Vanities by W.H. Lizard HERE

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