World Party Bang!
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Though drummer Chris Sharrock and guitarist Dave Catlin-Birch have signed on as official band members, World Party is still Karl Wallinger’s show, though co-producer Steve Lillywhite adds his customary big drum sound to songs such as “Give It All Away.” An avid psychedelic-era Beatles fan whose soulful synth pop sound is updated by Prince-ly affectations (particularly “What Is Love All About?” and “Rescue Me”), Wallinger remains a gifted melodist, and the album starts strongly with “Kingdom Come” and “Is It Like Today?,” both of which continue along the same lines as the mellow musings found on the excellent Goodbye Jumbo. “Kingdom Come” has pleasantly smooth synths, a brisk beat, and country guitars going for it along with varied vocal hooks (the galloping chorus and the airy “forever” sections), while “Is It Like Today?” is the kind of effortlessly melodic and singable ditty that gives singer-songwriters a good name. “What Is Love All About?” is another questioning, socially conscious winner, this one on the funky side, but after that promising start the middle of the album flounders somewhat, largely because of a reliance on overly busy arrangements and electronic effects, plus the fact that Wallinger’s voice doesn’t translate well to higher volumes. The silly interlude “And God Said...” is also a hindrance (preachy lyrics are again a problem), while “Hollywood” and “Radio Days” are overly repetitive, lazy efforts. Fortunately, the ship gets righted on “Rescue Me,” which among other funky Prince-like attributes features a soulful guitar solo. The next song, “Sunshine,” provides ample ammunition to detractors who lament the band’s obvious musical references, since the song starts by borrowing the melody of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” before borrowing the melody of The Who’s “Getting In Tune.” It’s still a solid song, and "Sooner Or Later" and “All I Gave” are other singable synth pop pleasures, though “Give It All Away (Reprise)” repeats one of the album’s weaker songs, new ideas obviously being harder to come by this time around. Strangely enough, despite being an overly long and disappointingly patchy album, this was the band’s biggest commercial success, hitting #2 on the U.K. charts. Still, Bang! is certainly not the place to start with World Party, though there’s enough high quality stuff here that fans of the band’s previous work should be willing to give it a try.