Monday, 5 February 2018

Clandestine Classic LV - Is It Like Today?

The fifty-fifth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Back in the days before the Internet, if you wanted to know what was going on in the world of music, and what your favourite bands were up to, you had to read the music press. So, in the early 90s, I read Q magazine an awful lot. And, for a while, Q was very much in love with World Party.

World Party were, essentially, a vehicle for one-time Waterboy Karl Wallinger, on whom Q lavished hundreds of column-inches, especially after making World Party's second album, Goodbye Jumbo, their album of the year in 1990. They were still eulogising about Karl in 1993 when follow-up Bang! was released.

Now I hadn't bought into Q's canonisation of Wallinger, but when I saw a copy of accompanying single Is It Like Today? in a bargain box, I thought I could risk 99p to test the magazine's devotion. And you know what? This song, at least, lived up to their hype.

Is It Like Today? was World Party's UK singles chart highpoint, just squeaking into the Top 20, at 19. Musically, I loved it, for it's carefully picked guitar line and piano counterpoint, the slightly dreamy vocal delivery, Karl's harmonies, the lyrical conceit (a face-to-face with God, in which the almighty laments how messed up his creation project has become), the middle eight with its whispered "Bang!" (God deciding to destroy his creation, perhaps?) that gave the parent album its title, and its beautiful, melodic outro. All of it - tremendous. I remember putting this on every compilation tape I made for a while, back then.

Despite Q's relentless patronage, World Party never really translated critical acclaim into massive commercial success, and after the next album (1997's Egyptology, a relative flop), Karl basically took most of the next decade off, not least because, after having an aneurysm in 2000, he understandably wanted to put his energies into being well.

Anyway, World Party resumed active service in 2006, but it's been pretty quiet from Karl since box-set activity in 2012. You can find today's classic on the aforementioned Bang!, the single-disc best of Best In Show or that comprehensive box-set Arkeology. You might imagine I have some, or even all, of these, but I don't - today's classic remains the only World Party record in my collection. Why? Because I don't believe even Q's favourite son could top it, and I've never heard anything to quite convince me to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when you've recorded this, well, that's enough for anyone, isn't it? Have a listen and see if you agree.

Footnote: the Robbie Williams hit She's The One is a cover of a World Party track from Egyptology.


  1. I played Goodbye Jumbo in my car until the message was well and truly OUT of the box. Haven't listened to much else by World Party, though.

    1. You didn't work for Q magazine, did you? :)