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    The Police

    zenyatta mondatta regatta de blanc outlandos d'amour

    Outlandos D'Amour( 1978 )
    Next To You / So Lonely / Roxanne / Hole In My Life / Peanuts / Can’t Stand Losing You / Truth Hits Everybody / Born In The 50’s / Be My Girl – Sally / Masoko Tanga

    The Police were briefly a four piece band ( July – August 77 ) with Henry Padovani and Andy Summers sharing guitar duties. Padovani left the band after an aborted studio session with producer John Cale failed to yield satisfactory results. All three remaining musicians had decidedly non-punk backgrounds for ostensibly a punk band. Stewart Copeland was the drummer in progressive rock band Curved Air. Andy Summers and Sting came together forming ‘Strontium 90’ a project band for a Gong reunion, of all things. Sting had been a secondary school teacher and musician in a variety of local jazz bands. Andy Summers career dated back to the sixties with stints in Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, The Soft Machine and session work for Eric Burdon, Neil Sedaka and Kevin Ayres. It was all a far cry from learn three chords, get up and play. Their hair ended up being bleached for a chewing gum commercial, incidentally. A strong image was born as much out of chance as by design. The sound of the band at this stage, mixing punk with reggae, was hardly an innovation as similar sounds were spinning all around the country. The Clash and The Slits would be notable punk bands incorporating reggae influences. Sting also seemed to incorporate elements of scat singing into his style, which could work well with reggae, of course.

    Suicide, abandoned loves, hookers, desperation and loneliness. Sting’s songs sure had a cheery message but whatever message his songs had, such a message was surely lessened by the hooky pop choruses rammed into around half the songs here. The songs only have meaning on the surface level ‘so lonely, so lonely’, ‘you don’t have to put on the red light’ or ‘I can't, I can't I can't stand losing I can't, I can't I can't stand losing I can't, I can't I can't stand losing you I can't stand losing you I can't stand losing you I can't stand losing you’. The verses also seemingly deliberately dumbed down to a level the average sixth-former might understand, or indeed, be able to write themselves. For all the inventiveness within severe structural limitations the band confined themselves to, Sting seems content to reel off a borrowed reggae riff or two to combine with standard verse / chorus / verse structure. The songs of The Police can be painfully simplistic, despite clever touches from Copeland or Summers. The fact that The Police were all fine musicians and the likes of The Fall or The Slits weren’t also creates an interesting situation. The Slits couldn’t help but sound like they didn’t know what was coming up next, same for The Fall. The music was unpredictable, a key facet of the best punk music, the danger and unpredictability of it all. The Police present no danger, absolutely no unpredictability. There’s always a hint of something beneath the surface but it’s always quickly buried by yet another repetition of one of Stings choruses.

    On a more positive note, this album hints amply at pop gold to come. ‘Roxanne’, ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ and ‘So Lonely’ all have moments. The introduction musically to Roxanne where the band seem to stop and change directions. The distinctive introductions that all three songs have. I don’t like Stings apparent intellectual contempt for his audience. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be stupid unless you’re a comedian. Sorry, but I don’t find Sting very humorous. Actually, that reminds me. There isn’t even the barest hint of humour or fun here. Everything seems to have been taken oh so seriously. I know some people who will claim this debut album by The Police is their best but unsurprisingly, I’m not one of them. For the record, ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Next To You’ are the favourites of mine here, along with the interesting near-instrumental closer ‘Masoko Tanga’.

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    Readers Comments

    Stephen stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    Smug, shallow, gimmicky and incredibly dated, pop music has rarely sounded so naff or so empty. Yes, they're catchy, but so is chickenpox. Do everything you possibly can to avoid hearing a Police album. There are several hundred bands from this era who made more interesting records. Unfortunately, I don't think Sting has bothered to listen to a single one of them (perhaps because he was too busy enjoying the sound of his own voice).


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    Reggatta De Blanc( 1979 )
    Message in a Bottle / Reggatta de Blanc / It's Alright for You / Bring on the Night / Deathwish / Walking on the Moon / On Any Other Day / The Bed's Too Big Without You / Contact / Does Everyone Stare / No Time This Time

    There was a time, and it would have been 1980 ish, when The Police were my favourite band. I make the excuse that I was only six years old at the time, had none of their records and in reality, just loved 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon'. The third single taken from this set I can't say I remember but it was 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'. 'Reggatta De Blanc' was an album that arrived less than a year after the bands debut and sees the punkier elements disappear to be replaced by The Police's take on Reggae. The writing credits are somewhat interesting on this album, considering the Sting domination that would soon take place. Copeland soley writes 'Does Everyone Stare', 'Contact' and 'On Any Other Day'. He also gains co-writing credits on the title track and 'Deathwish'. He even gets a lead vocal for 'On Any Other Day', crikey! After 'Reggatta De Blanc', The Police would be seen operating less and less as a cohesive unit, which is a shame because the only person the average fan remembers these days is of course Sting. The contributions of Copeland and Summers were very important. The non-lead guitar of Summers was perfect for The Police's 'white reggae'. Copeland was an inventive drummer who would never showboat on compositions but whose playing was always very solid indeed. So, the album.

    An early favourite of mine here is 'Bring On The Night', superb guitar playing a notable feature. Third single 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' is a four and a half minute reggae tune that sounds little like a potential hit, but it's a good, chilled out spacey tune. The other singles everyone on earth probably knows. Suffice to say the reggae on the moon of 'Walking On The Moon' is very good indeed and 'Message In A Bottle' is one of the greatest songs the police ever released. I love the 'ta-dah!' guitar parts in the former and adore the lyrics and vocals in the latter. So far, so good. As usual for a Police album though, not everything passes muster. The closing tune 'No Time This Time' is taken at 100 miles an hour, doesn't have much of a tune and Stings vocals have got an extremely irritating effect on them throughout the song. 'It's Alright For You' is throwaway and the apparently award winning title track is nice but doesn't really add to anything when placed as only the second track on the LP. So, The Police make strides but haven't quite yet found what they are looking for.

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    Readers Comments

    Stephen stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    Note how by using French in Police album titles, Sting tried to convince everyone that he was sophisticated, intelligent, literate and wordly. He may well be/have been all these things, but you'd never know it from his pompous, pointless songs.


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    Zenyatta Mondatta 8 ( 1980 )
    Don't Stand So Close To Me / Driven To Tears / When The World Is Running Down / Canary In A Coalmine / Voices Inside My Head / Bombs Away / De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da / Behind My Camel / Man In A Suitcase / Shadows In The Rain / The Other Way Of Stopping

    The Police say they were rushed in making the album, but it doesn't really show, apart from a preponderance of instrumentals. Lyrically this doesn't seem to be an important record anyway, the key moments all being flourishes on the instruments by the various band members. 'De Do Do Do' ably demonstrates all this albums successes with a nonesense baby talk lyric, for example. Lead track, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' is the only time a lyric on 'Zenyatta Mondatta' truly engages me, but I don't mind that. The instrumentals are slotted into the running order nicely, a seamless, well arranged running order that becomes a benefit if you like of the album all by itself. The reggae, pop, rock sound of The Police solidifies on 'Zenyatta Mondatta' through a new found maturity within the band without losing their edges. Apart from the arrangements of the individual songs and the songs themselves, it's the flourishes that keep me coming back to this Police album more than some of their others. 'Driven To Tears' has some wonderful, ringing guitar parts, for instance. 'When The World Is Running Down' has an instantly cool bassline to propel the song forwards. The song pretty much is that bassline, yet Andy Summers, trying to find something to do, creates a wonderful ringing tone for his single, repeated guitar refrain. The bouncy pop of 'Canary In A Coalmine' leads me to credit again the strong bass playing as well as the addictive guitar parts.

    'Voices Inside My Head' is a near instrumental, although Sting does admit to having voices in his head, ah Sting, we could have told you that ourselves! All three band members can be credited with this cool instrumental track, Copeland impresses on the drums cleverly turning the tune around several times. Summers does his usual, understated yet inventive thing on the guitar and Sting just plucks away on the bass to keep the tune going. It has a kind of magic that gets to you though, does 'Voices Inside My Head', it's very cool, far cooler than a lot of the 'proper' Police songs we've discussed so far on this page. 'Bombs Away', written by Copeland proves itself to be a fine pop song with a decent hook and a tremendous guitar solo through the break. 'Man In A Suitcase' has a clever melody and the closing 'The Other Way Of Stopping' is the least essential track on the LP although does showcase Copeland's abilities on the drums to fine effect.

    So? Well, 'Zenyatta Mondatta' would rate higher still, but it lacks enough genuine emotion, a common recurring problem for The Police and the songwriting of Sting, espressing genuine emotion and getting it sent back via the listener. It's like a hallway of mirrors, that two-way emotional connection the best bands best music possesses, that magnifies the effect and adds a whole extra layer of appreciation for a listener. It's easy to listen to 'Zenyatta Mondatta' and enjoy and admire it, but to love it is a whole other matter, for me at least.

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    Readers Comments

    Stephen stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    'The Police' is an anagram of 'Eel Op Itch', which would have made a better album title. As would 'Annoy Daze Matt Tat', which is an anagram of 'Zenyatta Mondatta'. They could also have called it 'Launderetta Baguetta'. Anyway, this is another turgid stinker of an LP from Sting and his former cop chums. Terribly dated fluff. Not even charmingly dated fluff, either. It's a brave person who can make it to the end of side two...


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    this page last updated 6/08/07


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