Wang Chung is one of those bands. You know the ones. The ones where you feel like the only song they ever did was “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” a song in which they explicitly name-drop themselves (Everybody have fun tonight… Everybody Wang Chung tonight…). However, they weren’t one-hit wonders, with “Dance Hall Days” making it to #16 in 1984 and “Let’s Go!” cracking the Top 10 in 1987. They also did something pretty uncommon among pop/rock bands in composing the soundtrack to a non-concert film, the very stylish crime drama To Live And Die In L.A. And it wasn’t just a collection of their regular songs; the entire B side is given over to instrumental scores.
I’m fascinated by To Live And Die In L.A. because it’s one of those movies that feels both brilliant and awful at the same time. The online reviews and ratings are generally good, but there are some cringe-worthy lines. The story, however, is decent and it’s visually captivating. Certainly it’s a bit dated, but I can’t help but watch it every single time I come across it on TV. And the soundtrack is definitely part of the appeal.
The A side is all tracks with vocals. Wang Chung just missed cracking into the Top 40 with the film’s title track, a song you probably remember if you’re of a certain age. “Wait” originally appeared on the band’s 1983 album Points On The Curve, while the other two songs were new compositions for the soundtrack. While these are some good tunes, the B side instrumentals are the highlights – they’re surprisingly cohesive compositions. Scores usually feel designed to fit the specifics of the film, but these are more structured like songs that the film itself bent to accommodate.
I’m not much of a soundtrack guy – I probably only have three or four in my collection. But To Live And Die In L.A. plays more like a legit album, so it’s a good fit for me.