Listen to this track, a proto-Brit pop gem from guitar pop one-man band World Party. The track is “Ship of Fools”, and the one man is Karl Wallinger, newly and amicably departed from the Waterboys at the time of this release. The song is taken from his 1987 debut Private Revolution.
The World Party name is a vehicle for Wallinger’s interests in classic British guitar pop of the 60s and 70s. Musically speaking, this song to me is something of an outlier for the Brit-pop of the 90s, with a return to a Beatlesque emphasis on melody and big choruses. With an anthemic chorus as big as the one here, to my ears the song is very Gallagher-worthy. Wallinger’s efforts followed the same template as Oasis, and many other British groups, although a number of years earlier. And by 1997, Wallinger would find a nice little earner in his song “She’s the One”, as taken from his Egyptology album. The song was a smash UK hit by British pop chart golden boy Robbie Williams.
But as for “Ship of Fools”, the song is both ahead of its time as well as being something of a period piece. The themes here are about the fear of the future, and about being led into that future guided by the self-serving hidden agendas of those with all the power. This is certainly not what I’m talking about when I say that this is of it’s time, of course. What theme could be more pertinent to this current decade, century, millennium that we now find ourselves in?
It’s just that in the 1980s, songwriters seemed to be unafraid to write songs like this in a pop music milieu , wearing their fears on their sleeves about the state of the world, and challenging us to think about our own while still aiming for airplay – and getting it. I’m not sure this happens quite as much today. And it makes me wonder why, since in many ways our world is in even bigger trouble than it was in 1987. The chorus ‘save me from tomorrow’ is, in a way, quite prescient.
For more information about Karl Wallinger and World Party, investigate worldparty.net.