To Live And Die In L.a.

Wang Chung

Geffen Records, 1985

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


There is a small but tragic group of artists in pop music history -- the groups who because of one great monster of a break-out hit have the rest of their musical catalog utterly overlooked. Artists like Slade, Dream Theater, Status Quo, even classic artists like Harry Chapin, get remembered for one song -- and get a whole body of work forgotten. Perhaps the most painful for yours truly is that of 80s progressive pop duo Wang Chung. They produced five albums of really solid work, but if you mention their name to anyone -- well, suffice it to say I don't bloody know HOW to "Wang Chung tonight," and I don't want to know.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One of these casualties is Wang Chung's 1985 soundtrack to To Live And Die In L.A. The movie itself is worth mention; a dark, obsessive film noir about one cop's descent into lawless vengeance, starring William Petersen (now better known as Grissom on "CSI"), Willem Dafoe, and John Turturro. Good film. Tough film to put a soundtrack to. Wang Chung manages, pretty damn well.

The soundtrack is half vocal selections and half instrumentals. (I found it really ironic that one person on the IMDB bitched about the songs in one breath and loved the instrumentals in the second -- and didn't seem to know they were the same band). The vocal selections are serviceable to quite good; I admit to being unable to warm to the faux swing of "Lullaby", but the driving pop of "Wake Up Stop Dreaming" and "Wait" is some of the best examples of pop music from this era. The real centerpiece, however, is the wistful eerieness of the title track; from the first bars of the intro, a chill settles on you. This is desperate nihilism in a way that The Cure only wished they could manage, and when set against the backdrop of the movie it's damned effective.

The instrumentals are even better. Wang Chung had a strong progressive rock influence, and it shows here. "City of The Angels" and "Black-Blue-White" are the highlights, though all are excellent.

The long and the short of it is that To Live And Die In L.A. is a forgotten gem of '80s progressive pop, and fans of the genre should check it out. There's more to Wang Chung than one tired party tune.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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