Forgotten Band: World Party
I am really excited to explore World Party a bit in today’s story. “All aboard” exclaims Karl Wallinger. Oh, trust me! I am “all aboard” this live version of “Ship of Fools”!
This particular version accentuates the ultra-cool aura of every aspect of this song: Karl Wallinger’s delivery in parts is just the tiniest bit lower than the studio version but he also hits all the higher notes perfectly.
Physically, he’s capturing a little John Lennon. Vocally, he’s channeling the sexiest bits of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison. (Admission: personally, I don’t find Jagger sexy, though I understand why others might. Sexiness is typically subjective. Jim Morrison, however, is unequivocally sexy. Period.)
Musically, this live version makes me realize two things. The first one is just how bluesy the whole endeavor is. That keyboard harkens The Doors with a dash of New Orleans. Don’t miss those final rockin’ moments either.
But the second realization is more earth-shattering for me. I see very clearly that “Ship of Fools” as a song, but especially in terms of Karl’s look and overall vibe, was a direct link from the general mid-to-late 80s alternative scene to the distinct very late 80s alternative scene.
Specifically, I am referring to the Madchester scene. I think of the Stone Roses as being the true originators of that specific scene (with the influence of the alternative musicians from the late 70s to the mid-to-late 80s). Until today, I perceived World Party as simply a generic part of the 80s alternative music scene. This video and live performance allow me to see the band in a new light. That slight psychedelic Doors-influence is more pronounced on this live version.
Though I still wouldn’t include World Party in the Madchester/shoegazer/jangly guitar music era, it’s fascinating to realize that Karl Wallinger, probably unintentionally, touched the edge of one of my favorite music genres.
(In a future story or stories, I will really flesh out this sub-genre of alternative music lasting from approximately 1988–1992 and pre-cursor to mid-90s Brit-pop. I have dubbed it the“British jangly guitar music” era of music that ended abruptly when grunge came on the scene. It’s on a spectrum that includes the Madchester and shoe-gazer scenes. While it wasn’t always directly intersecting with those scenes, it definitely happily co-existed and coincided with them. To my knowledge, it has not been acknowledged by anyone in the music world as its own sound, but it most assuredly is.)
By 1990 World Party double-downed on that Doors/late Beatles look, no? There’s a slight twanginess (surely due to Karl’s Welsh upbringing and Waterboys roots) to World Party that prevents them from being full-on Madchester, but you can see that psychedelic influence on their style. As for “Way Down Now”, it’s an energetic diddy. That Mick Jagger-vocal influence is still there and a subtle bluesy undercurrent, but it feels original over 25 years later.
And now we’re going to…lower the lights a little. I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not know that Karl wrote this Robbie Williams’ hit! (I owned “The Ego Has Landed” and quite enjoyed it.) Karl wrote “She’s the One” twenty years ago and it still sounds lovely. In fact, I prefer Karl’s version, so I’ve featured it over Robbie’s.
Karl Wallinger is truly talented and has a distinct place in the alternative music scene spilling over from the 80s into the 90s. His songwriting and songs hold up really well: “Ship of Fools” is 30 years old and still sounds fresh and interesting, managing to avoid sounding dated. Plus it has some unique lyrics, especially for a top 40 US hit. World Party has several releases from 1987–2000, so there is much more to discover. Although World Party isn’t a group I listen to often, they’re a worthy contributor to my very favorite music era.
Until her 40’s, Bonnie’s worst nightmare included writing and sharing personal stories publicly. At her friends’ suggestion, she bemusedly started Bonnie’s Mixed Tape on Medium in 2017. She remains shocked that anyone reads her stories and that P.S. I Love You, the Writing Cooperative, Song Done Wrong, and the Ascent have published her work.
Bonnie loves all types of music, but really, really, really loves the 80s!
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