Huang Chung – “Huang Chung” (1982)

huangchungIt wasn’t until I was researching the To Live and Die in L.A. Soundtrack that I learned that Wang Chung had previously gone by the name Huang Chung (same pronunciation… different lettering).  And that’s the only reason I knew that that this copy of Huang Chung was in fact Wang Chung’s debut when I came across it the other day.  And I figured for three bucks, why not?

This is one of those times I wish I had a graphic equalizer, because Huang Chung sounds a bit flat.  It could use a little stretching out on both he low and high ends.  That being said, this is a surprisingly good record, a true precursor to the new wave explosion that would wash over us like a wave the following year in 1983.  There are dreamy tracks like “Ti-Na-Na” but also some up-tempo (and saxophone-filled because, after all, it’s the early 1980s) pop-rockers like “Straight From My Heart”.  The high point is undoubtedly “China”, a brisk-paced catchy number that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Wang Chung – “To Live And Die In L.A.” Soundtrack (1985)

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.

toliveanddie

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.