Like pumpkin pie, I avoided World Party for a good part of my life, based on a suspicion that it would only bring me pain and remorse. Recently, I confronted my fears and found both quite satisfying. It’s odd how certain things disgust us before we can even prove they are disgusting. That was my relationship with World Party. I’m not sure why this was so. I think it goes back to their “Ship of Fools” video. Something in that video scarred me. Perhaps it was Karl Wallinger’s creepiness or his colored John Lennon bifocals. Maybe it was seeing a hairless woman for the first time (Sinead O’Connor). Maybe I just wasn’t ready for World Party or World Party wasn’t ready for me back then.
So why did I give World Party a chance after all these years? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity or worse, a sign of aging. Recent Carey Potash spottings at John Tesh concerts would support the latter. Whatever the case may be, I finally broke down and bought my first World Party album, Egyptology, and I was pleasantly shocked at how good it was. The gloomy British pop band House of Love wrote a song titled “The Beatles and The Stones” back in 1990. That title would describe Egyptology best, as the album is clearly divided into equal parts of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I believe if John Lennon or Mick Jagger were alive today, this might be a sample of what they would sound like. (Mick Jagger is still alive you say? Right. Sure he is. That’s what the zombie wants you to think.)
A red flag would normally go up when picking up a CD that has 15 tracks on it, but when you come out with a new record about every five years like World Party, it’s fair to let them slide. The band’s absence is captured in “Call Me Up,” a “Lady Madonna-ish” piano romp, heavily influenced or some could say, blatantly ripped-off from Paul McCartney. Wallinger sings: “Been a long long long time since I heard something that I really love.” The first seven songs (The Beatles’ half) on the record are strong. Wallinger basically excavates sixties British pop down to the last cascading a capella “bup bup bup bah bah dah duh.” This may explain why the songs all sound so familiar. But this is nothing new to World Party. A one-man-band these days, Wallinger has written some well-orchestrated songs on this release such as “Beautiful Dream” and “She’s the One.” The swinging “Vanity Fair” is infectious and highly shagadelic. “Love is Best” with its nice overlapping back vocals and “Rolling Off a Log,” with instrumentation that recalls Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales, are also quality songs.
Wallinger slips into Mick on dirty blues numbers “Hercules” and “Strange Groove.”
With a set of songs that appears to be thirty years late, Wallinger curiously decides to end the record with “Always,” an upbeat pop trifle which is probably the closest to 1999 of the lot.
Now that I finally overcame the World Party heebie-jeebies, I can say that it wouldn’t be fair to strictly label them Beatle robbers. I’m sure if The Beatles never existed, Wallinger would still be singing to large crowds daily. Any time a birthday presented itself, he would give his TGI Fridays managers the best happy, happy, happy birthday salute they had ever heard.