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I come not to bury Wang Chung, but to praise them.
Not the â€œwackyâ€, â€œpartyâ€ Wang Chung that crapped â€œEverybody Have Fun Tonightâ€, â€œLetâ€™s Goâ€ and â€œHypnotize Meâ€ upon the world, but rather the real Wang Chung, who made darkly catchy pop with a more serious undercurrent. The Wang Chung that was pretty much Lost in the 80s.
Starting life as Huang Chung, the band recorded one album for Arista Records in 1982. Two years, one new label and a simplified name change later, the trio released one of the most essential albums of the New Wave era, â€œPoints on the Curveâ€. Am I over-praising â€œPointsâ€? Not really â€“ itâ€™s excellent, front to back, and gave the band a Top 20 hit with â€œDance Hall Daysâ€, a quirky a dance hit as you can get (by the way, it was â€œwe were cool on crazeâ€, not â€œChristâ€ as my sister thought). But â€œDance Hall Daysâ€ was not Wang Chungâ€™s first hit. That honor goes to the far superior â€œDonâ€™t Let Goâ€.
Desperate and bouncy all at once (try pulling that one off sometime), â€œDonâ€™t Let Goâ€ is an atmospheric New Wave classic that doesnâ€™t get enough respect. You never hear it on Eighties Flashback radio shows or see the video on VH1 Classic and thatâ€™s too bad. It kicked off â€œSide Twoâ€ of the album back in the day, but should have been the first song on Side One, since it really set the true tone of the album better than â€œDance Hall Daysâ€, which actually kicked things off. Luckily, â€œDonâ€™t Let Goâ€ was completely ignored, since it scraped the bottom of the Top 40, paving the way for â€œDance Hall Daysâ€™â€ success (I still havenâ€™t forgiven the band/Geffen for picking â€œDonâ€™t Be My Enemyâ€ for the [flop] third single instead of â€œEven If You Dreamâ€, perhaps the best song on the set).
This led to the band (now reduced to the more-familiar duo we all remember from the videos) being asked to provide a track for â€œThe Breakfast Clubâ€. Wang Chungâ€™s contribution, â€œFire In The Twilightâ€ would have fit just fine on â€œPoints on the Curveâ€. While released as the soundtrackâ€™s follow-up to Simple Mindsâ€™ massive â€œDonâ€™t You Forget About Me,â€ â€œFireâ€ failed to spark any chart action. That doesnâ€™t stop it from being an entertaining rock stomper, very 1985 in its sound. I’ve included the superior single mix with a slightly different chorus that’s never been on CD. And fine, since no one else is gonna do it, here’s the super-rare video for the single, complete with Molly Ringwald cameo:
The duoâ€™s next full-length project was a soundtrack for the film â€œTo Live and Die In L.A.â€ The duoâ€™s evocative atmospherics served them well here and the title track very nearly made the Top 40. But as with any other soundtrack, there are some sludgy instrumental parts to tromp thru. If you like the whole â€œMiami Viceâ€ vibe, hereâ€™s where it started.
The lackluster reception of the bandâ€™s last few singles must have spooked someone, since their next album, â€œMosaicâ€, was Pop City. You know the hits, you know the bombast, you know how sick you are of them now, so letâ€™s move on. Congrats on your retirement fund, boys!
With their final album, â€œThe Warmer Side of Coolâ€, it appears the duo got their pop jones out of their systems, since itâ€™s a welcome return to the darker mood of their earlier works. As a result though, it was far less successful. Lead single â€œPraying To A New Godâ€ was a notable attempt to fuse the more commercial production and hooks of the â€œMosaicâ€ era with the more aggressive ambience of their past work, and it wasnâ€™t half bad. Alas, the single and album as a whole fared poorly and Wang Chung went their separate ways until recording a new track for a greatest hits effort in 1997, then resurfacing on the NBC â€œwhere are they nowâ€ summer series, â€œHit Me Baby One More Timeâ€, where they performed a surprisingly rousing and entertaining version of Nellyâ€™s â€œHot In Herrreâ€.
The response the duo got on that show has inspired them to reform and record a new album, including a song called â€œAbducted By The â€˜80sâ€ and, in keeping with the times, a MySpace page.
â€Donâ€™t Let Goâ€ peaked at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984.
â€œFire In The Twilightâ€ did not chart.
â€œTo Live And Die In L.A.â€ peaked at #41 on the same chart in 1985.
â€œPraying To A New Godâ€ peaked at #63 on the same chart in 1989.
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