Everybody Wang Chung Tonight: Wang Chung's Greatest Hits

Wang Chung

Geffen Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


OK. Before we go any further, let's establish one thing. I hate this CD's title .

Wang Chung, like a lot of musicians in the eighties, got cubbyholed with one hit, and no matter what else they did people remembered them for the hook. Rick Springfield never got past "Jessie's Girl", despite some work later in his career that was at least interesting. Tears For Fears were forever those "Shout"-ing guys. And Wang Chung will always be, to most people, the advocates of having nocturnal fun, the slickly commercial spirit of the day-glo Eighties in America.

Too bad. They don't know what they were missing. Wang Chung was...and is...more than glib pop. The band was primarily a collaboration between Jack Hues, whose influence included the symphonic sound of Yes and Genesis, and Nick Feldman, drawn more to the pop sound of the early Beatles and the musical experimentation of Miles Davis and Frank Zappa. (A third member, Darrin Costin, left after their Geffen debut in 1984). Wang Chung's stated intention was to create 'global pop', a clever mixing of sounds from multiple influences. This CD, an almost-comprehensive overview of their career from 1984 to present, is a shining example of how well it worked when it worked.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The early tracks from 1984's Points On The Curve, such as "Dance Hall Days" and "Don't Be My Enemy", are enjoyable, if a little muddled. Their releases off their third CD, Mosaic, are bright and evocative, including the aforementioned "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" -- possibly the most annoying song in music history -- and "Let's Go".

What really shines, though, is the inclusion of material from their second and fourth CDs. The 1985 soundtrack to William Friedkin's To Live And Die In L.A. is complex, haunting, and dense, almost reaching into symphonic rock. The driving beat of "Wait" and the eerie minor keys of "To Live And Die In L.A." are nothing short of magnificent. (The original CD is out of print; I guard my copy jealously.) Scattered in the mix as well are tracks from their fourth CD, Warmer Side Of Cool, from 1991, including the triumphant and uplifting "Big World" and the stinging guitar licks of "Praying To A New God". Unlike most 80s synth-pop bands, Wang Chung had a guitarist, and Jack Hues' playing is cutting, melodic, and sadly underrated.

For the completist, the CD includes alternate versions of "EHFT" and "Dance Hall Days", as well as one new track, "Space Junk", which is sadly lackluster and would have been best jettisoned into orbit.

Like any overview of a career, Everybody Wang Chung Tonight has its weak points. But for anyone seeking a map to the middle ground between pop and symphonic rock, this is where to go. But please, don't ask me how you Wang Chung. I don't know either. (By the way, if I could rate the title for this disc, it would be an "F".)

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.