If I call Goodbye Jumbo inconsequential, I’d like to think that Karl Wallinger — the sole power behind this and the previous World Party album — would be pleased, even charmed. ”I was just writing songs,” he has said. He put the album together with ”no marketing ethic at all.”
So, despite an undertone of social concern — the album’s title refers to the threatened extinction of elephants — Wallinger’s music sounds like his hobby, not his compulsion or even his career. But that also could be why it’s so airy and delightful. You never know what to expect. A song like ”God on My Side” (a gentle attack on religious fundamentalists) reflects in nearly every note Wallinger’s obsession with the Beatles; it sounds as if he’d been listening to the White Album a lot, mixing it with occasional doses of John Lennon’s ”Imagine.”
Then the next song, ”Show Me to the Top,” introduces a wail midway between a train whistle and a convention of ethnic flutes, repeating peacefully over an easy beat. The glowing sound of ”Love Street” makes you feel that we’re all babies and that the world has become a giant cradle; ”And I Fell Back Alone” is an achingly private song about the end of a love affair.
There are albums that add up to more — or less — than the sum of their parts. Goodbye Jumbo adds up to precisely the sum of its parts, nothing more, but also nothing less. Considering how fine those parts are, that’s enough.