By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
WANG CHUNG – POINTS ON THE CURVE (1984)
As it is stated in the heading of this series, the music I write about for The Cassette Chronicles covers the rock, pop and metal genres. Of course, it is plainly easy to figure out that the majority of the articles really focus on rock and metal. But I do like to throw in a pure pop music album every so often, just to keep me and everyone else on their toes. And that’s part of the reason for how this week’s article came to be about Wang Chung.
Back in the days when American Top 40 was my musical bible, the Sunday morning countdown was the be all, end all of the week for me. And Wang Chung played a part in that with the songs “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”. I remember those songs well and still hear them somewhat regularly on the radio station that I listen to at work.
That radio station and a co-worker are a secondary reason for why I picked up this album on cassette when I had the chance. That co-worker is a huge blues and jazz fan and every time I play something at work that is rock or metal, he hates it. His reaction to the band Nightwish was like he had a peanut allergy or something.
Oddly enough though, when he was first hired and our musical preferences had been established, we were listening to the station and “Dance Hall Days” and he simply stated that he really liked the song. This kind of blew my mind since it wasn’t jazz or blues. Even though I like the song, I just wasn’t expecting his positive reaction. And then he heard “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” (from the album Mosaic, which may be a future article in this series) and raved about that one too. This made me even more assured of buying the albums when I had the chance so that he could hear them at work and I wouldn’t have to listen to his whining about the music I picked. So yaaay to Wang Chung on that front.
The funny thing is that while researching this album, I discovered that they actually had five Top 40 hits in their heyday. But since I never bought any of the albums back in the day, the two previously mentioned songs are quite honestly the only ones I actually remember. So this meant I would have no preconceptions about Points on the Curve since I only knew about “Dance Hall Days”.
What I learned is that while others might really enjoy the group’s music, besides the hit singles I know, Wang Chung had some songs I was surprised to find myself enjoying and then a whole bunch of other material that just left me cold. The album opens with “Dance Hall Days” and I learned that this was a second version of the song. The track had been originally released as a single in 1982 and the band re-recorded it for this album. And I still really dig the song. It was the most successful of the four singles released from this album. The song “Wait” featured a jaunty little uptempo and quite intriguing musical soundtrack. I will say that I thought “Don’t Let Go” was pretty darn good song as well. However, “Don’t Be My Enemy” was a song that I found wanting for something more.
As for the album tracks on Side One, “True Love” came off a bit too strident in the vocal area for me. As for “The Waves” and “Look At Me Now”, I just wanted to get through them and move on to Side Two.
As I said, I liked “Don’t Let Go” and didn’t care for “Don’t Be My Enemy”, but sadly the other three tracks on this side all fell into the “Dislike” category for me. While “Even If You Dream” and “Talk It Out” were songs that just didn’t appeal to me, “Devoted Friends” just seemed to drag endlessly on ad infinitum.
Now I realize that pop music, even during the era when I was actually listening to it, may not be my area of even the slightest level of expertise for me. That said, for me Points On The Curve kind of amply demonstrates why I’m (with notable exceptions) more of a singles kind of listener these days when it comes to 80’s pop.
NOTES OF INTEREST: This was the band’s second album, but the first released as “Wang Chung”. Their original name was “Huang Chung”, which served as the title of their first album as well. Despite the pronunciation being the same, they reportedly changed the spelling of the name because fans were pronouncing it “Hung Chung”.
While their have been other band members in the group over the years, the mainstays of Wang Chung have been singer/guitarist Jack Hues and guitarist Nick Feldman. The group split up in 1990 but got back together in 1997. During the separation, Feldman formed the group Promised Land with Culture Club’s Jon Moss. They released a self-titled album in 1992. Jack Hues did a one off project with Tony Banks from Genesis called Strictly Inc. and they released a self-titled album in 1995.
Wang Chung is still active to this day and are featured on this summer’s Lost ’80s Live 2019 tour. [The co-publisher of Limelight Magazine attended their concert at The Theatre at Grand Prairie in Texas last weekend and said they were one of the best live acts on the bill.]
The song “Don’t Let Go” was used in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.