World Party Arkeology Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Back at last for a little life laundry, Karl Wallinger unlocks his archive.

Wyndham Wallace 2012

Twelve years after their last studio album, Karl Wallinger has finally decided he’s ready to resurrect World Party, the vehicle for his songwriting that birthed Robbie Williams’ She’s the One, originally a track on their fourth album, 1997’s Egyptology.

Instead of stepping back into the studio, however, the former member of The Waterboys has immersed himself in his archives and emerged with an exhaustive – and sometimes exhausting – five-CD set of rarities, live recordings, B sides and demos. There are also new tracks, some recorded a year or so ago, and in total 70 tracks are unreleased, making this a treasure trove for completists, if not a route into his work for new arrivals.

Arkeology is packaged imaginatively in an Any-Year diary that contains images of memorabilia, useful anniversaries (as selected by Wallinger) and, naturally, recording details.

Inevitably it’s filled with its fair share of throwaway material: an alternative version of What Is Love All About features helium vocals; I’m Only Dozing is interrupted by a distracting "tribute" to The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society; while Silly Song is exactly what it says on the tin. But there’s still plenty of evidence of Wallinger’s talent scattered throughout, more than enough to justify the collection’s existence.

Wallinger wears his influences on his sleeve. Alongside Prince pastiches like Everybody Dance Now, there are regular tips of the hat to The Beatles, whether on covers of their classics Dear Prudence, McCartney’s Man We Was Lonely, or the mop-top flavoured All the Love Was Wasted (not to mention the image on the diary’s frontispiece).

He’s a classy writer himself, too, as evidenced by Lost in Infinity and the affecting Another World (recorded in 1986). In addition, a version of She’s the One (recorded for Later… in 1997) reveals how little Williams brought to the table, though a sax-fuelled live recording of World Party’s debut single, Ship of Fools, is a little too loose to eclipse the original.

One can only hope these nearly five hours of material are a precursor to more than merely live activity in the future.

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