Record Review: Wang Chung – Points On The Curve [part 1]

Geffen Records ‎| US | CD | 1984 | 4004-2

Wang Chung: Points On The Curve US CD [1984]

  1. Dance Hall Days
  2. Wait
  3. True Love
  4. The Waves
  5. Look At Me Now
  6. Don’t Let Go
  7. Even If You Dream
  8. Don’t Be My Enemy
  9. Devoted Friends
  10. Talk It Out

My first exposure to Wang Chung came a year earlier, when they were called Huang Chung. I was aware of US Arista dipping their toes into the synthpop waters with signings of Heaven 17, Pete Shelley, and…Huang Chung. I was all over the first two artists. They were a major part of the 1981 vibe that I was still riding even in 1982, when the Huang Chung album happened. For whatever reason, probably down to the fact that I never heard a note from it anywhere, I ignored the Huang Chung experience.

We moved along, when in 1983, the now signed to Geffen and renamed Wang Chung, managed to get their heads above water enough to have a clip for “Dance Hall Days” get some real traction on MTV. In fact, it got played enough to make a sizable hit out of it. While I didn’t hate it, it got played enough on MTV to wear out its welcome with me. I remember shopping at Murmur in late 1983 with my friend Tom and his curiosity was piqued by the excellent Barney Bubbles cover to the “Points On The Curve” album. I told him they sounded okay, but were nothing too special. In that time period, we were still far more interested in Ultravox/Simple Minds/OMD records.

It remained untilI met my friend Mr. Ware in 1985, and we enthusiastically had large swaths of our record collections crossing over in a venn diagram of sound. When he revealed an interest in Wang Chung that I had not picked up on, the thought occurred that maybe I should check them out occurred to me. I bought a used CD of “Points On The Curve” soon afterward and it’s been in the Record Cell ever since. I also sprang for their follow up album, “Mosaic,” but that one was too saccharine to my ears. Mr. Ware and his rock-steady-cru® [namely myself and his friend/bandmate Ray] trekked to Tampa one night in 1986 to see The Chung at the London Victory Club on their “Mosaic” tour. A decent show, and the “Mosaic” material live had more allure than on the album. Even so, it got sold off along the way, leaving the more ideal second album as my go-to Wang Chung album.

“Dance Hall Days” was built around a tribal/shuffle beat from Darrin Costin and ringing guitar chords from singer Jack Hues, who had the subtlest “punk name” I’d ever come across this side of Eugene Reynolds. Born Jeremy Ryder, he’d adopted the French phonetic moniker of “Jack Hues” [j’accuse… geddit?] like any musician refined in the fires of the punk rock movement in time for the emergence of Huang Chung. Hues’ clipped, veddy British delivery was probably an acquired taste for many, but I had little problem with it. His vocals, mirrored the restrained passion that this band was putting down. It was not for nothing that canny graphic designer Barney Bubbles listened to this music and devised an identity for it based on precise graphics built upon a graph paper grid motif.

It was never an A-side in America, but the next song, “Wait,” was one of my favorites here. It had a brilliant vibe with a long, almost proggy intro that coalesced into a shimmering cut diamond arrangement. Nick Feldman was playing bass that sounded like the same samples that were taking Frankie Goes To Holywood to the top of the charts at the same time. They had a very tasteful use of the infamous 8-bit Orchestra Hit® on this one that managed to survive the time span of its initial usage to wear well on my ears to this day, and few can make that claim. The harp and xylophone hooks were pretty exotic for what was actually a driving, almost motorik synthpop number. This one still sounds pretty powerful half a lifetime later. I love the vocal syncopation on lyrics like “evidently…there’s a difficulty.”

“True Love” had sort of a glamrock throwback beat, which I wonder how much that producer Chris [“Merrick”] Hughes of Adam’s Ants fame had to do with it. I loved how the next song, “The Waves” managed to quote the chorus of the preceding “True Love” as its middle eight! The laid back, jazzy vibe of this number also revealed Hues’ roots as a jazzer; something he’s pursuing at this stage of his life again. This was a pretty sophisticated arrangement and featured very slick but tasteful tenor sax work by Mel [King Crimson] Collins.

Side one closed with a bang with the sparkling “Look At Me Now,” a seemingly autobiographical song from Hues pen [no co-writing credits here]. The effervescent groove of the intro suggested an elegant whitefunk of the Roxy/Avalon persuasion. Think “The Main Thing.” Of course, Hues managed to stay to this side of the fiery line with his powerful but controlled delivery. I think he simply had too much education to allow himself to give in to sloppiness in his delivery. The machine rhythms matched his delivery as they simmered throughout the length of the track. I have to say that in retrospect, the touch of vocoders used here were almost shocking in their juxtaposition. They added fiery ice to a to what was a heartfelt, yet reserved number. Almost the Wang Chung ethos in a microcosm.

Next: …Side Two Awaits

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7 Responses to Record Review: Wang Chung – Points On The Curve [part 1]

  1. Fred says:

    Probably one of my favourite 12” mixes (Steve Lipson…..)

    Like

    • slur says:

      Sounds a lot like Men Without Hats too me, not really worse but not better either.
      Maybe I’m just not in enough ‘Pop Mode’ for this.
      Thanks for posting this and not ‘Dance Hall Days’

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        slur – Interesting comparing WC to MWH. Hues doesn’t bellow like Ivan Doroshuk, but there is a similarity there in the timbre of both singers. WC’s music is far more accomplished, though! MWH’s tunes have a nursery rhyme simplicity.

        Like

        • slur says:

          He that’s right. While I dig the blatant irony of MWH or what can be taken for that WC did never much for me – like you wrote in that times there where way more interesting acts to follow & listen.

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  2. Rob C says:

    I’d love to see an expanded remaster – as long as it includes my fave Wang Chung song, Fire In The Twilight. This song was massive on KROQ at a time when that station was so vital to our listening (and buying) experience.

    Obviously licensing is the issue, but I’ve always viewed its omission from their multiple hits collections a big oversight.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Rob C – “Fire In The Twilight” was further down the line. Dicey to include it on “Points On The Curve.” I had no idea about the lack of it on compilations, but yeah, A+M own that master, so you nailed it on the licensing issue.

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  3. Mr. Ware says:

    The “Points On The Curve” b-sides were excellent and with the fine extended remixes of the four singles, an expanded re-issue would be a great package and is long overdue. Still a big fan of the underrated Huang Chung debut, and would love to see the same for it as well.

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