Record Review: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

Virgin Records | GERMANY | 12" | 1983 | 601 137

China Crisis: Wishful Thinking GER. 12″ [1983]

  1. Wishful Thinking
  2. Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives
  3. This Occupation [ext. mix]
  4. Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives [ext. mix]

I first heard about China Crisis when they were the opening act for Simple Minds’ UK New Gold Dream tour in 1982. I first heard them when I caught a glimpse of the video for “Working With Fire + Steel” on MTV’s London Calling and from that point on, I bought all I could find. When I couldn’t find more, I resorted to mail order. I always liked the group’s wimpiness. But, as I was fond of saying “it was a bold wimpiness.” In other words, China Crisis were secure and even emphatic in their mild-mannered artistic temperament.

This single is one of my all time favorites by the group in that the A-side is sweetly melancholic and unapologetically gorgeous, with a wonderfully played synthetic string section sweeping the tune along. Other tracks on the album this single is from have live strings, but I guess the recording budget didn’t extend that far. The synth strings still sound rather good and more importantly, the addition of oboe and fretless bass, two of my favorite instruments, on this track lends it a gentle nobility that carries it far above the sound of the crowd in the charts at the time of its release.

Better still, this single is packed with great B-sides! The frisky “Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives” is a great LP cut from the group’s previous album, “Difficult Shapes + Passive Rhythms [Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain].” The “Wishful Thinking” 12″ has this cut added as well as a tastefully extended Steve Power mix on the flip side. Given that I always felt that it should have been an A-side to start with, having the 12″ version feels like a validation. The tone of the song makes it a good match with the A-side. The other B-side offers some contrast to this program of warm melodies.

“This Occupation [extended mix]” is an anomaly in the China Crisis canon; and therefore, a track to be cherished for its contrary qualities. China Crisis were never a flashy, aggressive, dancefloor beast. Except on this track! More than anything else it’s redolent of my beloved mid period Cabaret Voltaire sound. In fact, that I mistakenly typed “This Fascination” at the start of this paragraph pretty much says it all. This cut has a much more aggressive bass sequencer riff forming its foundation with uncharacteristically loud synthetic industrial percussion overlaid on it. The vocals have been cut up in the classic Cab Volt style to echo and repeat rhythmically. The song has been rendered more abstract than the 7″ mix on the B-side of the “Wishful Thinking” 7″ single. It’s a magnificent electro sound and Steve Power’s remix takes it to new places on the China Crisis map. Its inclusion on this single adds necessary spice to what would otherwise be a possibly stultifying program of passionate gentility. Having taken its place in the single, it elevates the entire package considerably; making it my favorite China Crisis single overall.

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3 Responses to Record Review: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

  1. Great choice postpunk! The oboe in “WIshful Thinking” is so soothing, it haunts your soul. I’m always defending the Eighties against those that call the music of the decade so frivolous without any conviction. Thank God for China Crisis, the Other Ones, and the Wild Swans, all of which provide me with an arsenal of beautiful music ready to take aim at the critics that judge the decade on the backs of Slyfox and Katrina & the Waves.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jeremy Kennedy – Wow! Another person who has a “problem” with Katrina & The Waves? Small world! I should mention that reader ronkanefiles is a huge fan of The Other Ones, particularly their “Learning To Walk” album. What I want to know is this: has anyone ever seen Alf Klimek and Barry Andrews in the same room?


  2. Echorich says:

    China Crisis is certainly one of my favorite bands of the 80’s. Mr. Kennedy got it right with words like soothing and haunting. They were always a band that knew what they wanted and did a wonderful job executing those wishes. Five albums in 7 years and none which I have any complaints with. From Difficult Shapes through Diary of a Hollow Horse they were joyous, emotional and yes, bold.
    Wishful Thinking is certainly one of those tracks. It is the lead off on my CC car playlist. I love Some People’s Scouse/Carribbean rhythm. Gary Daly is an everyman singer you can’t get enough of. This Occupation does really move! Great comparison to the Cabs Monk!

    Oh and as for Katrina and the Waves, I prefer my Kimberly Rew in Soft Boys…


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