|Day 32: World Party (Is It Like Today)
May 28, 2020
Since my main intention with this series of 365 artists in 365 songs over 365 days was to maintain a spontaneity to the choices, it has meant that I have occasionally wished I had taken a thematic approach. For no other reason, it might allow me to plan out 5 or more days in advance. For instance, a small group of artists could be featured all through their songs that directly address God, whether Tori Amos, XTC, James, or many others. I thought of this when I recently heard World Party's "Is It Like Today." It takes a certain level of chutzpah to write a song from the perspective of God. How do you create any tension or drama when your reference point is a supreme being? I suppose it helps when you portray God as a tad worried about his creation. Karl Wallinger of World Party did this on their 1993 album, Bang!
"Is It Like Today" is a microcosm of creation itself, starting two seconds into the song when the bass bubbles into an eruption out of nothing. Wallinger's God (and band) here is no controller of all things created. He is progenitor, setter-in-motion, nothing less than the big bang himself.
"Is It Like Today" alternates between God thinking about what he created down on earth and what his creations think about him. In five minutes, World Party captures the history of the world, as witnessed through the ever-growing concern of its master deity. The verses provide vignettes from Babylonia, Greece, Imperial Europe, and the Space Age. From the beginning, however, God has trepidation about what he conceived. Even when the fields of Babylon are "beautiful and green," his mankind dreams of more, such as "measuring stars." Makes you wonder if the World Party God scrawls in his diary, "this will not end well."
Between each verse and chorus we get perfectly created transitions, a repeated pattern through 4 verses and choruses. Every time Wallinger finishes singing the vignette that forms the verse, his verbal cue "he said" (or "they said") leads to pronounced strum of guitar, crashing cymbals, and dancing piano.
"How could it come to this/I'm really worried about living/How could it come to this/Yeah, I really want to know about this."
Then, the chorus bridges to the next verse with "Is It Like Today, ah ah" via more crashing cymbals and a exalted bass line that produces the bang of creation. It's easy to get lost in the historic timeline when hearing the chorus each time: Is it today? Is it a day 2000 years ago? Out of beauty life is formed, but while the instruments soften, mankind marches on through history, oblivious to our role within it.
It's a nifty structure that holds well as each vignette of a verse comes closer and closer to humans overstepping their place to play God. The Greeks of the second verse "laugh at the unknown of the universe"; the "kings, empires and revolutions" of the third verse spill blood that "looks the same when you open the vein"; and by the fourth verse man is out in "space fixing all the problems" coming "face to face with God." It's a good bet we are too self-centered to see that face with "furrowed brow." We also barely notice that the open-ended "Is it like today" question has been turned on its head -- "It isn't like today."
As the song settles into the quieter recesses near the end, Wallinger bursts with a "Bang!" after quietly repeating "Is It Like Today." Song concept, song itself, even album title have been set in motion. Then we loop back to the opening image of God looking "out a glassless window," but this time not understanding "much what he saw." The song concludes with a graceful play out of two guitars, almost as contrary motifs. I'd like to say that Wallinger foresaw no more verses in his timeline. But, then again, have you looked out your window this Spring? It is, like, today.
"Is It Like Today." Bang! World Party. Ensign. 1993. Link Here.
Day 31: Eurythmics "17 Again."
Day 33: A Flock Of Seagulls "Wishing." ->
See full unfinished list here.