Restarting the Party

A typical rock ’n’ roll story — veteran band tours to support a new album.

But nothing is typical about Karl Wallinger and World Party.

First off, the album isn’t really new. It’s five years old. During that time, Robbie Williams took one of Wallinger’s songs to the top of the British charts. His bandmembers produced and played on the song — and they did it without his knowledge. Needless to say, the band fizzled.

“It really is a strange scenario,” Wallinger says from London. “Then again, we live in such a strange world. It seems almost appropriate.”

The “Ship of Fools” that is World Party has been Wallinger’s to sail for the past 20 years — he enlists different sidemen and assembles the band in various configurations. One of rock’s great talents and deepest thinkers, he is a socially conscious man who philosophizes amid beautiful, seemingly perfect songs. He melds his groovy ’60s rock roots base with a bevy of different music styles — folk, R&B, classical, sometimes even disco.

“I like to be multifaceted. One of the things that’s always been true of World Party is that it’s got a wide bend. It doesn’t matter how you dress to go to the show,” he says, “but that attitude isn’t convenient for commerce. Record company people want to pigeonhole and categorize. They think too small. Everything is ‘showtime’ to them.”

Always a critical favorite, the band prospered in the early ’90s with the albums “Goodbye Jumbo” and “Bang!” before getting lost in the recording industry corporate shuffle. Then, in 2001, the album “Dumbing Up” had just been partially released in the U.K. when Wallinger suffered an aneurysm, which rendered him unable to speak.

“I spent about 2½ years working with a trainer,” he recalls, “and I didn’t work at all for about five years. When you think you’ll never do something again that you love, and then you get a chance to do it, it’s really special.”

The reinvigorated Wallinger charted his own course, regaining control of his catalog and re-releasing “Dumbing Up” on his own label. And when World Party reappeared in March at South x Southwest in Austin, Texas, curiosity was in abundance on both sides of the stage.

“I truly wondered if anyone would show up,” he laughs. “But the reception was tremendous. The work you’ve done in the past is still relevant today. The songs really have made their own friends over time.”

The band took to the road as a trio earlier this year. For his next tour, Wallinger is bringing along a seven-piece band.

“At some point here, we’ll actually have a rehearsal and figure out what the hell we’re doing,” he laughs. “And we may kill each other on the bus. It should be grand.”

Wallinger speaks with a genuine gratitude that his music has connected and resonated with people over the years, and approaches the future with enthusiasm.

“With this new [distribution] arrangement, I can record and get it out to the public in a very short period of time, without some big company in the way telling me what World Party should be. The only excuses are the ones I have to make,” Wallinger says. “When I go into the studio this October, I don’t really know what I’ll be doing. It’s exciting. The best things often come out of nowhere. They just sound like good ideas. I do this and sometimes it works out. I’m very, very lucky.”

concert peview

world party

When: Saturday at 9 p.m.

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St.,

San Francisco

Price: Tickets are $25

Info: Call (415) 885-0750 or visit www.musichallsf.com

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