5 Oct 2022
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Lung - Album Review: Bad Acid Soundtracks II

11 Sep 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark
Lung was a legendary punk, noise band in the early 90’s that embarked on world tours in the Northern Hemisphere and were lauded by none other than the mighty John Peel. Despite this, by 1994 they were splintering after a tumultuous and short career. They released a record under a different name (The Clear) that was an indicator of their success to come, and then two full length albums, an EP and a live recording as Lung before they disbanded.

Lung reformed in the 2010’s in Wellington with original members Dave White on guitar and vocals, and original bassist Phil Williscroft. Now they are joined by Zak White on drums, a much younger member who you would expect to inject a new energy to this, their latest offering, Bad Acid Soundtracks II.

This EP begins energetically with a tightly played drumkit with a Jazz touch completely at odds with a loosely played, reverb drenched guitar on an ever so slightly out of tune instrument. I was immediately reminded by the instrumentation of earlier Lung tracks, but here the production is crisper rather than the muddy and full sound they have been known for. The descending chords are reminiscent of Pavement and other slacker bands of the mid 90’s, more so than punk, but there is still something distinctly aggressive about White’s playing that allows accidental notes to add to the tension rather than distract us. It would be amiss to not mention the obvious influence of the Dunedin pop sound in the instrumentation and the way vocals are buried in the mix with delay. The voice is fairly indistinct, but the lyrics ‘when the, when the, when the panic comes, faster and faster and faster’ are shouted clearly enough to signal a change in the song. When the expected fuzz comes, the din grows and then disappears again, taking the audience on an unexpected journey away from traditional verse and chorus structures.

Dinosaur, the second track (originally from the band’s offering when they were known as The Clear) has a chorus that is positively catchy, complete with a nimble drum fill and percussively played muted strings. A double beat totally changes the song into a quasi hardcore track, but only for a moment.

Hello Mr. Dinosaur, give me the gun’ is sung as the song mutates, increases then decreases in tension. It was at this moment I remembered the genius of Lung that was perhaps not expressed fully in opening track Panic; the band can constantly improvise. These songs are all unorthodox and unpredictable because the energy between the players keeps the music changing.

Swing (originally found on 3 Heads on A Plate) starts with a dirty, marching riff that has a real swagger. White’s voice is effective as spoken word set against the crisp bass lines and jazzy drums. As other songs, soon enough an angular, shrill guitar returns to splinter the song, breaking the calm cool. But then, the verse returns for White to sing ‘Your corpse is warm, like a cracked reactor’ when the guitar hushes. There is a real genuine magic here captured by the band, though it is a raw, rough magic made of grit.

Slaughterhouse (also off 3 Heads on a Plate and their infamous EP, Paralysis) reminds me of Marilyn Manson’s reimagining of Annie Lennox’s Sweet Dreams in both the riff and the tone of the instruments; but seeing as this band precedes the cover I can’t fault them. There is something distinctly goth 80’s about the song; perhaps the punchy bass. At two and half minutes in, an explosion of guitar noise shatters the established ambience. This is a band who knows how to dial in a sound to cause alarm.

DisneyFuckingLand utilizes a totally different sound from a delayed guitar and effected voice. By the end of the eight minutes the band has played riffs reminiscent of stoner metal, used hardcore double beats and lyrics that could almost have appeared on a Butt Hole Surfers’ record were it not for the lack of humour in the presentation. This song uses even more apparent improvisation, and the song flows and finds a strangely satisfying end with the lyrics ‘welcome to Disney Fucking Land, people, people, people’ spoken over a screeching amp.

Full Moon (found on both Cactii and their live album as The Clear) comprises of two tension filled jangly chords played in a warm overdriven tone. Some atonal moments of absolute chaos end the track. Unlike earlier versions, this one is a little more stripped back.

Finally, Evil Wrench takes a while to begin properly and represents the most noisy and experimental elements of the band. White’s guitar hums atop a clever beat that I want the band to join in on, but they let the noise drag on until ten minutes in when a spite filled song appears completely unrelated to the rhythm that precedes it. A little confusing...

What to make of it all? As far as I can tell, only track 1, 5 and 7 (Panic, DisneyFuckingLand and Evil Wrench) are new compositions. These new recordings of old songs are sometimes improvements on the old ones, but not always. Certainly, Full Moon from The Clear’s Live Stomach remains the most interesting version with original drummer Brent Gammill’s fast paced and complex beat providing a convoluted structure for White and Williscroft to jam around. I wonder if they have delivered the "industrial psychotic garage grunge guitar and beats" they wish to be known for.

Certainly, bigger acts have name-dropped Lung over the years. Tool’s Maynard James Keenan is a fan, and you can hear the abrasiveness he has borrowed for his own music in this recording. Cactii as an album that truly made an impact - it continues to be mentioned amongst rock and avant-garde musicians alike as a rare, underground release showing how to concoct a ferocious noise from only a three piece. However, though it is commendable for a band to reform and continue playing live as Lung has done, this recording offers little in any new tricks learnt in the interim.

They have, at least, remained true to the ethos and style. The same gritty noise is intact, but for those already aware of the band’s legendary recordings this EP only shows a portion of what they are capable of. I’ve noticed the lack of samples found in earlier recordings, in both found audio that started some tracks and guitar samples triggered by drum pads, but this is a small change.

It’s nice when old bands return, but every musical act (whether they have had a hiatus or not) balances precariously between two conflicting behaviours; if a band changes their sound they risk losing the fans they have gained, if a band does not evolve they risk boring those same fans.

Have Lung changed? Not really. And for most followers of the group, this is a good thing. But given the time between recordings, most would expect and forgive them that they had. Perhaps the band is apprehensive about making too many new songs as evolving would happen inherently. I hope that they do.

Rating: ( 3 / 5 )
 

About Lung

Lung formed in Palmerston North in the late 1980's out of the remains of The Clear and released two albums on Yellow Bike Records, Cactii and 3 Heads on a Plate, which were also released & distributed throughout Europe and the States by several indie labels including Restless Records in LA. Lung then spent several years touring the northern hemisphere. The original vocalist/guitarist & bassist have reformed this year in Wellington with a new drummer.

Full Moon video clip


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Lung

Releases

Bad Acid Soundtracks II
Year: 2022
Type: Album
3 Heads on a Plate
Year: 1992
Type: Album
Full Moon Again Film
Year: 1991
Type: DVD
Cactii
Year: 1990
Type: Album

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