Tuesday, May 2, 2017

World Party 5: Dumbing Up

Even if it takes him years to finish an album for a tiny public that cares about it more than any distribution channel, Karl Wallinger has the skill to produce himself, layering instruments and sounds, either by himself or with dedicated players, to concoct the product in his head. (And, apparently, design his own cover art with stock programs.) As solid as Dumbing Up is, he could still use an editor.
Many of the tracks are long for what used to be airplay standards, and when they tend to be on the slow side, it’s easy to lose interest. “High Love”, obviously a ballad close to his heart for the time he devotes to it, would be better served by highlighting the sublime harmonies that don’t show up to until the end. Luckily, it’s followed by “Best Place I’ve Ever Been” is the upbeat quasi-single the album sorely needs. “Santa Barbara” is a lovely seaside-inspired piano reverie that’s a departure for him, though the seagulls could be scaled back. “All The Love That's Wasted” has something of a music-hall feel, but is immediately superseded by the grand “Little Bit Of Perfection”. “Another 1000 Years” is obviously melodically suggested by “Baby You’re A Rich Man”, which brings us to our next point.
Where the album truly falls short of excellent are the obvious pastiches. “Here Comes The Future” has an anachronistic arrangement that belies the title, and his funk experiments are kinda embarrassing anyway. And having already recorded several songs based liberally on Dylan’s electric heyday, “Who Are You?” loses any value in its rant by not trying harder (though at least it doesn’t all sound like its funk coda). In contrast, he manages to better direct his social commentary on the closing “Always On My Mind”, a simple solo piano with just piano, vocals, and some effects, albeit for over eight minutes.
Not long after the album was released with nary a ripple of impact, Wallinger suffered a brain aneurysm, the effects of which incapacitated for the better part of six years. Once sufficiently recovered, he rereleased Dumbing Up on his own label, shuffling the original sequence, dropping two songs and adding two new ones. “‘Til I Got You” and “I Thought You Were A Spy” are both effortless tunes that, amazingly, no one else had thought of yet. “All The Love That's Wasted” is no great loss, but it’s a shame he cut “Little Bit Of Perfection”. The album still ends with “Always On My Mind”; where else could it fit?

World Party Dumbing Up (2000)—3
2006 reissue: same as 2000, plus 2 extra tracks (and minus 2 tracks) plus DVD

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