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HUANG CHUNG (Buy CDs by this artist)
Huang Chung (Arista) 1982
WANG CHUNG
Points on the Curve (Geffen) 1984
To Live and Die in L.A. (Geffen) 1985
Mosaic (Geffen) 1986
The Warmer Side of Cool (Geffen) 1989

Despite the exotic name, this posh British band plays familiar post-Ultravox pop — with saxophone instead of keyboards and less of a heavy dance beat — on Huang Chung. The talented and proficient quartet lacks only an identity and the first-rate songs that might have made it memorable.

Points on the Curve unveils several major changes, including the new spelling, a different label and a slimmed-down trio lineup (no more sax), now focused on singer Jack Hues. "Dance Hall Days" has dumb lyrics but a good rhythmic sound and a strong hook; "Wait" has dumb, awkward lyrics ("evidently/there's a difficulty") but a clever arrangement with synthesized strings and chimes for punctuation. Elsewhere, they essay dance-funk and Foreigner-like pomposity. Having banished its facelessness, Wang Chung is revealed in all its mediocrity.

And then there were two. Drummer Darren Costin formed a band called Heroes which released an LP (Here We Are) in 1987. The remaining members of Wang Chung (Hues and multi-instrumentalist Nick Feldman), meanwhile, wrote and recorded the soundtrack for the movie To Live and Die in L.A. — a good title song plus lots of expendable atmospheric instrumentals.

That same slender lineup, aided by drummer/producer Peter Wolf, a horn section and a stack of backup singers, created Mosaic, another stylish and trivial synth-dance (plus the horrific ballad "Betrayal") pursuit which happened to contain one catchy and clever number, "Let's Go," and the monster hit single/video clip "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." (Which Tom Jones reportedly sang in his act for a while, changing the lyrics to "Everyone Tom Jones tonight!")

After a long vacation, Wolf shifted to keyboards and produced The Warmer Side of Cool, a smoothly bland collection of relatively restrained retreads (a little Police, a lot of Wang Chung) that can't muster a single track as irritatingly catchy as "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." Although Feldman's lyrics make Hues' sound positively brilliant, neither man has anything of substantial artistic value to offer. Only two songs — "Praying to a New God" and "What's So Bad About Feeling Good?" — are worth a fig, so you can safely turn the record off after eight minutes without missing much. it's hard to imagine why anyone would actually want to own this.

[Ira Robbins]