If pop music history is doomed to repeat itself, that's quite all right with Karl Wallinger and his band World Party, who further demonstrated Sunday at the Wadsworth Theater both the glory and error of focusing too much on pop's past.
There were no pretensions here, unlike so many other recent '60s/'70s copyists. Wallinger remains the humble charmer. He simply continues to find his greatest inspiration in that era of Dylan, Hendrix and Lennon & McCartney, down to the vintage Rickenbacker bass he played for his own hit "Ship of Fools."
World Party weaved these glaring (and often limiting) influences into pleasant waves of pop harmony, made personal with earnest lyrics of romance, whimsy and the end of the world. The show's finest moments came at the beginning, when Wallinger and two band-mates played a brief acoustic set that cut the folky psychedelia down to its core songcraft.
Not that Wallinger and company are closed off from modern musical advances. The computers, sampling and other new gimmicks on the band's new "Bang!" album reappeared at the Wadsworth, even if it all crashed into a grating muddle during the show-closing "Give It All Away."
World Party had seemed much more comfortable earlier, during a perhaps too-faithful rendition of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." Explaining that the band had been listening to a Dylan cassette on the tour bus earlier, Wallinger told the crowd, "It sounded pretty good, maybe because of all the crap you're hearing these days."