Two years ago, a British art-rock quartet named Huang Chung released an intriguing album based on Far Eastern gamelan rhythms. Now the same band is back with one less member, a more phonetic name (Wang Chung), an increased reliance on synth-pop and a new album, "Points on the Curve." As before, Jack Hues is the chief songwriter and lead singer, and once again his musical inventiveness seems to strain against his formalism.
The songs are built on competing rhythms -- usually a pounding techno-dance beat and a counterpointed Eastern pattern -- that are programmed into a computer. As the songs click back out, they acquire a static quality, as if locked into patterns they can't escape. Hues' melodies are often quite appealing, but they always seem to be following a pre-set track rather than discovering a new one. The lyrics are more like abstract comments on hypothetical situations than actual reactions to real people. On some occasions, though, as on "Dance Hall Days" and "Don't Be My Enemy," Hues' melodic hooks and rhythmic momentum will burst through his cerebral constraints and connect with the listener.
WANG CHUNG -- "Points on the Curve" (Geffen GHS 4004); appearing at the Wax Museum Friday.