Karl Wallinger is reintroducing World Party to the U.S. by doubling the band’s recorded output.
“Arkeology,” a 70-song, five-CD blowout featuring new tracks alongside B-sides, live recordings and other rarities from throughout the band’s 25-plus-year career, is the first new recording from World Party since 2000’s “Dumbing Up,” the band’s fifth album. The new songs, many recorded last year, also represent the first new material since Wallinger was sidelined in 2001 with a brain aneurysm that kept him away from major tours until 2006.
The set wasn’t even something he was interested in doing at first. To keep things more interesting, he modeled the design of the box after the themed Redstone Diaries released annually by Redstone Press, organizing photos and other archival documents into a World Party diary.
“The box set sort of reared its ugly head like a horrible sort of dinosaur thing,” Wallinger said from a tour stop in Pittsburgh.
“I didn’t want to do it — I don’t want to put all the albums remastered in a box set; frankly I think that’s always a rip-off, that kind of stuff. Basically, I was in the kitchen one day, and they have these great diaries, the Redstone Diaries — we have them at home. Every one is a different subject. . . . I thought, what a great thing, a diary — it’s something useful, not a box that you have to put next to the cookery books because it won’t fit anywhere else.
With: World Party, Jukebox the Ghost, MaryLeigh & The Fauves, Jed Davis, The City Never Sleeps and Headband Jack on the Madison Stage; Ryan Shaw, Graham Alexander, Lucky Jukebox Brigade, Erin Harkes, Northern Faces and Dirty Paris on the Washington Stage
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lark Street, Albany
How Much: Free
“It’s like a mobile feast, really,” he continued. “You can overindulge in World Party until you feel ill.”
Now Wallinger, the band’s leader and only consistent member, is testing the waters for a full-band tour of the U.S. with a series of shows with a stripped-down setup in the eastern U.S. Most of the tour will feature a duo version of the band, with fiddler David Duffy, but they’ll be joined by lead guitarist John Turnbull for their headlining performance on the Madison Stage at the 31st annual LarkFEST on Saturday.
“It’s a great way to travel — we’re like commandos, like the World Party S.A.S. [Special Air Service],” Wallinger said. “It’s just a slow way of coming back together, covering more ground and just saying, ‘Hi, we’ve got a new album out.’ [That album] is like dropping the nuclear bomb, that kind of thing, with five albums in one.”
The band joins Jukebox the Ghost and local groups Headband Jack, The City Never Sleeps, Jed Davis, and MaryLeigh & the Fauves on the Madison Stage. At the other end of Lark Street, on the Washington Stage, soul belter Ryan Shaw headlines a lineup featuring Graham Alexander and locals The Lucky Jukebox Brigade, Erin Harkes, Northern Faces and Dirty Paris.
World Party is perhaps best known in the U.S. for “Ship of Fools,” the band’s sole charting single, which reached No. 27 on Billboard’s Top 40 in 1987. For each World Party album, Wallinger has employed a number of different musicians in creating his heavily Beatles-influenced sound, creating lush soundscapes often employing strings and other instruments.
Performing these songs in such a stripped-down setting, with Wallinger switching off on guitar and piano as necessary, is certainly a different tack — one that a few show promoters have balked at slightly on this tour. But so far, he says the setup is working quite well.
“We played in Chicago the other night — we did a radio session before we played the club, we played opposite there at this little club that held about 500,” he said. “The guy from the radio asked us, ‘Who else are you using tonight?’
“When I said it was just me and David, he gave me a look like, ‘What?’ So he was a bit worried, but we did the show and it was absolutely fantastic. [The audience] just sang — I hardly had to sing anything. It was amazing, and the guy came upstairs after with a big smile and said, ‘I see what you mean.’ ”
Looking ahead and back
All this is a precursor to next year, when Wallinger plans to mount a full tour and also begin recording the next official World Party studio album. Although there are new songs on “Arkeology,” he insists that the point of the set is truly a career retrospective — “It does cover the whole 25 years — or 27 years actually, but I’m calling it 25 years for the Silver Jubilee,” he said.
“The thing was, I had so much stuff in the can over the years. I’m always in the studio; I’ve never been not going to the studio. So I’ve been in the studio for 25 years, so hopefully I have a lot of stuff.”
Among some of the more surprising tracks on the collection is “Photograph,” a slightly electronic-tinged pop song that Wallinger began writing 17 years ago, in between 1993’s “Bang!” and 1997’s “Egyptology” albums.
“When we initially did it, there was a sync problem where all the tracks went out of sync, and I couldn’t go back to it for a long time,” Wallinger said. “I took all the parts from tapes, computers and stuff, put it all together and rerecorded it, finally wrote the chorus and all that kind of stuff. So there were things like that happening as well.”
Given the myriad different sources the collection draws from, the sounds, and sound quality, on the tracks are all over the map.
“It’s been so long since I’ve heard some of the things, it was just sort of like — I was just into it, it’s a very cool thing,” Wallinger said. “There’s so many different styles of music on it — I’m sure some people don’t even realize some of the songs are World Party. I like that about it, the fact that it’s got different things, rough things, quite intense things and quite strange things. Some things, it’s pretty mad — we were doing a cover of ‘Lucille’; what was that all about? But it’s great fun.”