Dave's Waterboys post inspired me to do a World Party "Rankings" post. I know World Party doesn't have a lot of followers here (what ever happened to GoodbyeGirl?) and thus may not see any other rankings, but what the heck— it's good for updating my iPhone playlist. World Party is too good to ignore.
Karl Wallinger — the chief cook and bottle-washer — clearly absorbed the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones and distilled it all into his own irresistible style. If you browse through the song titles, I'd bet you won't recognize many, so I supplied some quick hits.
WORLD PARTY: STUDIO ALBUM RATINGS
• PRIVATE REVOLUTION (1986): B
Rock-solid debut album. Best tracks: "Ship of Fools" and "World Party" (sort of a self-tribute).
• GOODBYE JUMBO (1990): A
World Party's breakout album has some killer power-pop numbers that hold up to repeat listenings. Yet the most stunning track might be "I Fell Back Alone," which nails hopelessness to the wall. Best tracks: "Take Me Up," "When the Rainbow Comes, Put the Message in the Box,” “Way Down Now,” “And I Fell Back Alone.”
• BANG! (1993): B+ Best tracks: Kingdom Come,” “Is It Like Today?," “What Is Love All About?" (he asks a lot of questions!)
• EGYPTOLOGY (1997): A-
Wallinger's most well-known song is here: "She''s the One." Robbie Williams's cover made it a monster hit, but as so often happens, the original is the standard. Best tracks: "Hercules," "Rolling Off a Log," "She's the One," the Beatlesque "Call Me Up," and the Stones-styled opener "It Is Time"
• DUMBING UP (2000): B
Another top-shelf collection that left us wanting more. Best tracks: "You're a Hurricane, I'm a Caravan," "Here Comes the Future," "What Does It Mean Now?"
WORLD PARTY: TOP 20 SONGS 1. When the Rainbow Comes. An uplifting song that builds and builds up to a killer slide guitar solo after the bridge. There's a sense of optimism here that makes it one of those "break-out-of-a-funk" songs. 2. Take Me Up. An equally uplifting number with a certain spirituality. The "Up" in the title depends on your outlook—could be religion, humanity, a higher power beyond the trappings of money and fame.... "I got an extra glimpse of the truth today / Staring at my breakfast / When I thought I heard it say / 'Fighting is no good, success an empty lie' / The treasure hunt is lonely until you realize / We came to take it up..." 3. Rolling Off a Log. Sounds like a lost Beatles classic from somewhere between "Hey Jude" and Abbey Road. It's got Lennonesque bite and McCartney-esque musicality. 4. Hercules. A bluesy number with mood and atmosphere. I love the guitar in this one. By the way, "Hercules" isn't a tribute to the mythological Roman hero; it's a call for inner strength. 5. Ship of Fools. Some biting political commentary in the form of edgy pop. A great chorus helped "Ship of Fools" reach No. 27 on Billboard's Hot 100. 6. Kingdom Come. I'm already at No. 6 on my list and I feel like any one of these first half-dozen songs could be at No. 1. I love "Kingdom Come"'s relentless melody and always-relevant message: "Pick the politician up and kick his bum!" 7. Put the Message in the Box. A killer hook and catchy chorus put this into the Top 10 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart in 1990. 8. World Party. An extremely cool track—should have been a single. Of course, a DJ saying "'Here's 'World Party' by World Party" might have confused listeners. 9. She's the One. Wallinger's most well-known song. It was a huge hit for Robbie Williams, but the original is more powerful. 10. You're a Hurricane, I'm a Caravan. Some Dylanesque wordplay, whereby the singer pinpoints cause-and-effect differences between he and his woman.
11. Way Down Now. This Stomes-styled rocker soared to No. 1 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart in 1990 and spent five weeks there. 12. And I Fell Back Alone. An "it's over" song with heartbreaking imagery: "How can two souls still eat together / When life has lost its taste?" And this: "It's time to make a wish and let it float on down the stream/And we can cry a little for a time that could have been." 13. Is It Like Today? Wallinger at his Dylanesque best. 14. Another 1,000 Years. Wallinger is at his Beatlesque best. The intro reminds me of "Baby You're a Rich Man." 15. Big Blue Ball. This isn't actually on a World Party album; it's the title track on a 2008 album credited to Peter Gabriel and Various Artists.
16. Ain't Gonna Come Til I'm Ready. A grinding, methodical number soaked in R&B and soul. Cool falsetto vocal in the verses. 17. Here Comes the Future. World Party with hip-hop influence. 18. Santa Barbara. A haunting stream-of-conscious description of travels to Santa Barbara, CA. 19. All I Gave. Spunky pop with a sunny 1970s feel, and one of Wallinger's best vocals, including some falsetto. 20. Words. Not to be confused with songs of the same name from other artists (like the Bee Gees and the Monkees). First appeared on the 2012 four-CD compilation Arkeaology.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of Walllinger's covers. Over the years, he did outstanding readings of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence," "Cry Baby Cry," "Happiness is a Warm Gun," and "Fixing a Hole”; McCartney's "Man We Was Lonely”; Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," "Sweetheart Like You," and "All I Want to Do”; and Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes." The only one among those to appear on a World Party studio album was “All I Really Want to Do.” The others finally surfaced on the Arkeaology collection.