Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Second-listen-worthy Beatlesesque Pop from World Party

Karl Wallinger has had an interesting career with more twists and turns than CA Hwy 36.  Just briefly, after serving as the musical director for a West End performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, he did a short stint in a funk band before joining the Waterboys.  He left that group (amicably) in 1985 and formed his own group, World Party. There’s more. Read on.

The concept behind the band is interesting. Wallinger sings and plays most of the instruments himself with multitracking. More than being merely influenced by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and others, he samples their work heavily and uses them obviously in his music. Like lifting the “hoo hoo” background vocals from the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” or an entire bridge from The Who’s “Getting in Tune.” He writes his own songs, of course, but he uses these samples right up front, without disguising them at all. It’s kind of cool to hear stuff reused that way.

Better than its initial sales would indicate.

Better than its initial sales would indicate.

Anyway, you’ve probably heard at least some of his hits, “Ship of Fools,” “Put the Message in the Box,” “Way Down Now,” “Is It Like Today?” or “When You Come Back to Me” (from the Reality Bites soundtrack). Good stuff, though a lot of it is derivative of Classic Rock. In 1996, World Party released the album, Egyptology. It was a flop. “Commercially disastrous” is how Wikipedia describes it. I’m here today to try to convince people to go back and give it another listen. The songs are good and I actually think the sound has aged better than any of his other releases.

11 of the 15 tracks are on my iPod which is both a high number and a high percentage for most albums. Listen to these:

  • It Is Time – This is a great, high-energy opener with jangling guitar and a catchy vocal hook.
  • Beautiful Dream – I like what he does with a very common guitar riff. You hear garage bands by the dozens use this but the lyrics and accompanying instruments make this fresh and interesting.
  • Vanity Fair – This is a live performance of this song, but I think it gives you a better listen than a clip of the album version. The album version features either flute, fife, or even perhaps a penny whistle at the chorus.
  • She’s the One – Wallinger won an Ivor Novello award for this song, but didn’t make much money off of it until Robbie Williams covered it, apparently against Wallinger’s wishes. He said, “He nicked my pig and killed it but gave me enough bacon to live on for four years.”
  • Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb – This is a very heavy handed song literally about archaeologists unearthing a tomb (the song’s deeper meaning, if it has one, eludes me), but it has grown on me and now I really like it.
  • Hercules – Dripping with tumbling piano riffs, soulful guitar, and cymbal crashes, this is a beautiful song about being strong for the ones you love.
  • Love Is Best – Check out the layered backup vocals. It’s deftly done and gives this song a lot of depth.
  • Strange Groove – Yes. Yes it is.
  • The Whole of the Night – You can really hear The Beatles’ influence all over this one. I don’t mind that, though.
  • Piece of Mind – I love the haunting harmonica work and the falsetto voices on the chorus.
  • Always – Great dreamy keyboards back up this whimsical song about self discovery.

Tragically, Wallinger suffered an aneurysm in 2000 that left him unable to speak. Yeah, holy shit. He underwent a long rehabilitation and actually came all the way back to play South by Southwest in Austin in 2006 and then to support Steely Dan in their Australian tour in 2007. Ostensibly, a new album is scheduled for release in 2009. I’ll be very interested to hear what songs he produced during these long years of difficult experiences. Good luck, Karl.



July 1, 2009 - Posted by | Classic Rock, Popular, Rock

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