When they first ambushed us at the beginning of this decade, Wang Chung was the very avatar of a techno-pop duo. Jack Hues and Nick Feldman created dance music made all the more compelling by its brittle, mechanical presentation. The bloom is off the synthesizer.
The Warmer Side of Cool contains one terrific song, “Praying to a New God,” but even here there are too many superfluous melodic detours thrown into the path of the locomotive central groove. Overall, this collection moves Wang Chung from the techno track toward a more traditional rock vein. That’s not a virtue in this case. There was a jittery focus in the past to songs like “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” and “Black-Blue-White” from the film To Live and Die in L.A. Wang Chung still sports high-sheen vocals and penetrating instrumental arrangements, but the mood is hardly as energized as it used to be. “Swing” seems intended to sound cool and sophisticated à la Steely Dan. Instead it sounds like bastardized lounge music. “Games of Power” would be totally unremarkable were it not for the pounding, primal drum beat that recalls Gary Glitter and Adam Ant. “What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?” could pass for a sudsy Howard Jones opus, but at least it’s not as pompous as “Big World.”
The Warmer Side of Cool is an apt title for a tepid album. (Geffen)