There is no doubt at all that the members of W.H. Lung have good musical taste. Their sound references the aural signatures of Neu!, Faust, Can, LCD Soundsystem, Future Islands, !!!, Liquid Liquid and many others. Unfortunately, if you are going to release a debut album that is so clearly indebted to the work of such musical luminaries then you need to pay homage whilst also progressing the ideas and well-worn templates. W.H. Lung fail to deliver a fresh take on the already established parameters and simply rehash what has gone before, possibly in the hope that their target audience will be unaware of the architects of the sounds that they are so deeply ensconced in and indebted to. Incidental Music, then, is a disappointingly safe album with regards the breadth of the musicality on offer as the listener is able to pre-empt the direction each song will take. Worse than that, though, is the whole other level of reaction reached on occasion when the lyrics are ludicrously simplistic and banal. More on that later.

The album begins well enough. The ten minutes long ‘Simpatico People’ is everything you would expect from a band with the range of influences that W.H. Lung have. Modular synths, reverbed guitar, swathes of keyboard washes and forceful tub-thumping combine effectively to create a tense intro before a more forceful rhythm is introduced with a chiming guitar motif that would have been welcomed in every indie disco up and down the land in 2005. There is a slight loss of focus when the vocals are brought into the mix as the voice seems too distant, too breathy and entirely unsure of its purpose. With such propulsive instrumentation the vocal lines seem almost redundant, and where the use of repetitive phrases should help build the track’s crescendo they merely serve to stifle the song in mediocrity. Less chk chk chk, more tut tut tut.

The album’s best tracks fuse the Berlin sounds of the early 1970s with post-punk, indie and prog influences. ‘Nothing Is’, the highlight of the album, is a song which takes its time before it explodes into life with a clattering rhythm and guitars which wander off in all sorts of direction – a refreshing change to some of the more methodical and overly precise musicianship on Incidental Music as a whole. Album closer ‘Overnight Phenomenon’ is another high point on the album as it feels unencumbered by the shadows of the bands that W.H. Lung regret being too young to have been in. There is a sense of earnest authenticity here which they would do well to delve into in future releases to establish their own sound which perhaps has a more pop sensibility than they feel comfortable with at this point in their career.

I had always thought that big brother Gallagher’s lyric “’Cause I’ve been standing at the station / In need of education in the rain” would always stand the test of time as the worst line in popular music ever, but W.H. Lung have managed to trump it with “Walking ‘round the cemetery feeling quite nice / Written on a tombstone is ‘Get a Life’” on fourth track ‘An Empty Room’. Salt is added to the wound when the lyrical refrain of ‘Can you feel it?’ like some 60s beatnik mantra leaves you staring blankly at the stereo at the lack of humanity in evidence as your only justified response is “Not really, mate”. Just when you settle for the words from ‘An Empty Room’ being the height of lyrical crassness, W.H. Lung pull out the pastiche ace up their sleeve in the form of “I’m late, I’m running for the last train (approaching) / Hoping that I’m insane” from the brilliantly titled ‘Second Death of my Face’. If you can manage to get through the album without wincing now and again at the lyrics then you are a much kinder, forgiving human than I am.

Overall, this is a decent enough album and for its many sins there is surely enough joy here to find a sizeable audience for the band. There is a pleasing directness of intention to the metronomic drumming and the arpeggiated keyboards that would be sufficient to keep a crowd dancing but look beyond the surface level and there is unfortunately plenty to make you cringe, too. There is a calculated, contrived aspect to some elements of this album which likely stems from W.H. Lung primarily being a studio project. There is a precision and a sense of cleanliness to the sound which is overtly wholesome and cold, the life of the guitar tones being subsumed by the machinery at the heart of the band’s sound. The songs very much feel as though they have been written via algorithms, a reflux rather than an organic process.

In their press blurb. W.H. Lung proudly declare that they want to erase the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, as if they are the first musicians to attempt an erosion of this type but acts such as Le Tigre, Stereolab and the late, great Scott Walker covered this ground many years before. Also, in a supposedly postmodern world where the destabilising of previous parameters has already taken place, perhaps the mission statement of the band needs to be reconsidered so as to more clearly focus on what they are good at – namely writing tunes that may get you up on your feet.