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The Police

Like ZZ Top except not. At All.

Introduction

Outlandos D'Amour

Regatta De Blanc

Zenyatta Mondatta

Ghost In The Machine

Synchronicity

Live

 

The Lineup Card 1978-1984

Sting (bass, keyboards, lead vocals)

Stewart Copeland (drums, vocals)

Andy Summers (guitar, keyboards, vocals)

The Police were one mighty good band, starting off in the late 70's just after the first wave of punk rock broke and ending just as the 80's were really starting to get obnoxious. And its only three guys, one of whom you may know as having played in Curved Air in the 70's (drummer Stewart Copeland), who really rules on drums (Stewart Copeland, the high hat king), a prog-minimalist journeyman guitarist who liked hanging out with the likes of Robert Fripp, and one of whom you should not judge too harshly based on what he's been busying himself with the last 17 years (come on, you know who), for he now know not what he does. But he did.Played darn good bass, for one. And the Police did nothing better than write super catchy little power pop songs, often with reggae/worldbeat/electronic/jazz influences, and pack their albums full of these spare little things. No side long epics, no soloing, just some great songs. And LOTS of cocaine. And pretty Catholic girls in really loose satin blouses without bras looking for lost contacts. Them too.

What's funny is, these guys were like the most popular band in the world in the early 80's, and definitely one of the more 'respectable' choices for critics and serious rock fans alike. But now they're almost forgotten by anyone other than us silly review nuts and maybe some folks who hear 'Every Breath You Take' or 'Roxanne' on their local easy hits station and tap their foot just a little whilst continuing to search for 'boys in underpants eating sausages' on Yahoo! instead of, you know, working or something. But have you met too many (normal, not record addict) people who own a real Police studio album other than Synchronicity? I sure never did. But you should! These guys were really great.

Manuel Mendoza

Andy Summers was not in Curved Air, Stewart was.  Check it out on Stewart's site   www.stewartcopeland.it       and Andy was in many bands including Soft Machine, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and most notably Eric Burdon and the New Animals(1968 formation when Eric relocated to LA to try and start a movie carrer).  Not to be a total asshole but there are only to halves in a one whole.  Canary in a Coalmine and Man In A Suitcase do not have the same chorus, by my judgement, you aren't a musician.  I disagree with many of your points.  I belive that the progressed with every album and that every album is as good as the one who preceeded it.  Mother is fucked to say the least.  I'm more intrested in texture but on some ocassions it would have been good to turn of the flanger.  Well. here's my opinions and keep up the work.  Cheerios

(Capn's Response: Okay, okay, I fixed it, dammit!)

 


Outlandos D'Amour - A&M 1978

So this is what Sting did after starring in that frigging buttnugget Quadrophenia movie. God, what a load of shit. I think I even tried to get my $1.99 back from the video store for that rental. Nah...I'm not a total goddamn tightass like my dad. You know what? I seem to have tight wads gravitate towards me. See, I'm always willing to throw a bit of money around if I have it (how else do you think I get all this shit I review? And trust me...there's much much more left to go.) but my dad was so tight he cut my hair himself until I was 17 years old. I never went to a barber until I was 17, how's that for fucking lame? Luckily he didn't cut hair too bad, considering my taste then was for 'unfashionably 1981-like' anyway, but come on. Now I've got my wife, who likes to walk an extra kilometer through snow and ice to save 2 or 3 rubles off a kilo of potatoes. You know what 3 rubles is? It's 10 fucking cents, man! I make $500 a month here, max, and we still save 2 or 3 hundred of that each month, even taking into account all these fucking CD's I buy. Nuts, huh? Oh well, I guess I won't ever have to worry about retirement.

Anyway, this is one of those records you'll never hate yourself for buying. When they started out, the Police were a real singularity in this new, dangerous (chuckle!) music called Punk Rock...they really could play. As their later albums bore out, they could have made a fair prog power trio, and it was true that Andy Summers was an ol' progger himself. But the band wanted to play these short, snappy, rippy little rock tunes instead of showing off by soloing and picking their nose, so they put the showing off in things like how cool the bass and guitar interplay with each other. And, of course, that AWESOME drumming. And, of course, in making each and every one of these little half-punk, half-arena rock, half-reggae tunes one of the catchiest things since gonorrhea.

The two songs on Outlandos D'Amour (which means 'Patti Smith can lick my sweaty asspipe' in Canadian) you've probably heard, 'Roxanne' (about a ho) and 'Can't Stand Losing You' (about, oh, heartbreak or something) are pretty grand exercises in white reggae (tango? riiiiight....) and straight-ahead duh rock respectively, but they're not the only ducks in the pond, now are they? 'Next To You' is just straight ahead pounding, but what compact, effective, distilled to a purity of 99.1% straight ahead pound it is. And if you like white guys doing reggae (and I like Sting's strain-y reggae vocal delivery, dammit. Then again, I like the Kansas City Royals too, so maybe you shouldn't listen to me) you should get on over to 'So Lonely' on song #2. And enjoy that great lead guitar and even an exceptional harmonica solo! And...well damn...almost all the other songs are near perfect, so just grab it. Maybe 'white guys doing snappy rock really well' doesn't register real high on the Importance Meter (these guys weren't U2, thank god), but sometimes that's all we need to entertain us.

Some missteps include 'Be My Girl - Sally', which sounds like second rate power pop formula and has an awful, naggy vocal line, and some wretched 'Pressed Rat And Warthog'-esque poetry part. Wha? Oh well...these guys probably thought it was funny. And though listening to the ska backing on 'Masko Tanga' is an experience akin to orgasm, Sting's meet-me-in-Senegal vocalizing is pretty hard to take. Boy, does that bass doodle he does in that song sound like something out of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall, or is it just those pesky aural hallucinations again? Fucking J. Edgar Hoover bugging me again. Nothing but an overfed drag queen with too many fingers in his ass.

Capn's Final Word: Oh yeah, even when trying to be simple they pack it so full of ideas they can't get the latches closed. They'll never be this stripped and to-the-core again, so maybe grab this first.

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Reggatta De Blanc - A&M 1979

By 1979, the juice had run out on the first generation of punk rock, and, to paraphrase Johnny Lydon, everyone went running for the New Wave (actually he probably said something like 'they all went bleating and cooing into slaughter, all for a bloody dollar bill', but fuck it...) and began to alter their sounds wholesale. The Police, being one of the first 'New Wave' bands anyway (being a 'punk' band that could do more with a guitar than just sawing away at it with a clenched fist) didn't have to do much, but they have done some cleaning up here. While on Outlaws, Andy Summers sometimes threw a bone at the altar of Johnny Ramone, here he's all business, all slick business all day long. And, umm, Sting and Stew are, umm...their playing identically.

Okay, let's do 'Message In A Bottle', my favorite ever Police (and Sting) track. Okay, the vocal delivery and drumming sound like Outlandos-style cracker reggae, and the chorus ('I'll send an SOS to the world!') saws away like punk, but hold tight just one fat bologna sandwich. Ever tried to play that arpeggiated riff? That shit is hard, yo! Your fingers have to stretch from here to Kentucky to do that (and if you live in Kentucky, you aren't doing it right, because you can't play this riff on a banjo. And wipe that drool from your chin. But if only I could play it on a banjo! I would rule the world!) And boy, that's sort of a blunt metaphor, but it's catchy, and I'll bite. I love the stuffings out of the instrumental 'Reggatta De Blanc' (which means White Punks On Dope in Roman, btw), and it's gotta be the hardest rocking thing on here. I love the 'Eeeyooo eeyyoo eyo yo!' part, but the cumshot occurs on the next part when the rhythm section locks in (at the behest of Copeland's high hat, I might add) and the whole joint pogos away on down to the local Moloko Bar. Other songs on the record follow in this slightly less punk, but still mightily ass kicking vein (by Ass Kicking I mean, it makes you wanna dance. The Police aren't Aerosmith or Helloween, doncha know?) 'It's Alright For You', 'Deathwish', Their white-boy reggae reaches a peak on 'Bring On The Night', following Andy's downright Rocky-ish echo/flanger guitar intro part. Later he rips off a feedback solo (the guy wasn't a master lead player, but boy, that rhythm playing is fantastic...and he can do some nice leads too, don't get me wrong), but some may find the ultra jumpy 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' to be even better. It all depends on whether you want your Byelia Regai to be slick and radio ready or itchy and (Lee) Scratch-y. I like 'em both, and they're grand at both styles.

But the downside is that all the wonderful super Santa Clauses are at the top, and the second half of the disc isn't quite so grand as the first. I mean, the band only had so many 'Message In A Bottle's and 'Walking On The Moon's to put out, so when they rely on something musically rote like 'On Any Other Day', melodically underfed like 'Contact', or uncharacteristically Billy Joel-esque like 'Does Everyone Stare?' the album can't help but feel a little rushed out at the end. And 'No More This Time' is worse than any of the straight-ahead punky stuff they ever did before, so maybe it's good they're leaving this kind of thing by the wayside. Now, NONE of these songs are bad, offensive, or dull. They're really pretty decent songs, but while Outlandos seemed to have all of its songs nearly equally high level of juicy goodness (except for the poetry extract...gak!), Reggatta definitely has two classes. Oh well, you'll enjoy it anyway. I'm just nitpicking.

Capn's Final Word:  For the pale faces of dub, the beginning of the road to Synchronicity and away from their punk/reggae home base, but there's still plenty of good rockin', good skankin', and good bouncin' to be had. Real good.

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Bill Bixby     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: the dude who wrote this review is an idiot.  i'm from kentucky and I dont play banjo or drool.  and i can play the arpegiated 9 chords that are the message in a bottle verse riff.  It is challenging, Andy is a superb guitar player, and you're an idiot.

(Capn's Response: Apparently, we don't hit the shift key neither. Wasn't Bill Bixby the guy who played David Banner in the old Incredible Hulk series? Do we have a little Lou Ferrigno running around now or what? Lighten the fuck up.)


Zenyatta Mondatta -A&M 1980

This record was apparently rushed through, but then again I've heard that about all their records but the first and last, so who knows? But two things are evident on Zenyatta Mondatta (means 'which way to my royalty check?' in Sicilian), first, they're really leaving the 'hard rockin' edge behind now, and second, that they really didn't spend much time on this record. To address the rockin, well they still do it, but Andy's guitar is a real textural instrument now. The rockin' is accomplished by Sting and Stew alone (take 'While The World Is Runnin' Down' as a good example...Andy just doing shimmer!) and there ain't much heavy distorted chunk at all on here. Totally easy on the ears, and no charges of 'this is punk' could ever be leveled at this one. The Zenyatta record was (oddly, if you ask me...why wasn't Reggatta a huge hit? Too punky? Boy, people were touchy back then.) their first huge Top 10 Pizza Hit, and both 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and 'De Doo Doo Doo De Da Da Da' were enormous (and deserving hits). I tend to think that, while it's great, 'Don't Stand So' could've been easily written and performed by the Outlandos band, but 'De Doo Doo Doo' couldn't in a million years. Hear how Andy's rhythm playing rises and falls on the intro, and his ultra-controlled melody playing sounds simple but is actually friggin' impossible? Not flashy, but just professionally accomplished. I love this track too...sounds like it would be dumb, but its far from it.

Problem is, too much of this record is too easily digested. Its all so super accessible and catchily light that I feel like the songs don't have anything underneath. There's too many good-but-same-y fast, clean toned reggae tracks like 'Canary In A Coalmine' They have much fewer 'wow' moments than before, but the hooks are more consistent. Some of the more interesting tracks are the ones that stretch out a bit. Check out the Eno/Bowie instrumental clone 'Behind My Camel' (which won a Grammy...weird!) ...good, but 'cmon, this ain't no 'Reggatta De Blanc', now!

And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you rape, and Zenyatta Mondatta is a fine, hook filled, ever-so-slightly slicker and less rocking update of the Politzei sound. It ain't my fault all the songs sorta sound alike (or that 'Man In A Suitcase' and 'Canary In A Coalmine' have the exact same chorus) it's Sammy Hagar's, the fuck. Getting a little sloppy in the songwriting department, and probably getting a little fat around the middle as well. But it's still mighty good.

Capn's Final Word: Besides those huge singles, I feel it's too light and too simple for its own quality of life, but c'mon. Eat that rocky road, party people! It's yer birthday! It's yer birthday!

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Ghost In The Machine - A&M 1981.

Lotsa folks rank this album as their worst, but I don't get it. Sure, Shiteronicity has all the monster MOR radio hits, but its got some out-and-out AWFUL songs. And not just by Sting, neither. This album sure ain't no worse than Zenyatta Mondatta in my book (my book being a cross between The Betty Crocker Complete Home Guide to Deep Frying and Lolita), and I like that synth-y, ever-so-slightly menacing quality these songs have. Fun stuff. Take 'Spirits In The Material World'...everyone always harps on the synth replacing guitar strums in this Outlandos-quality by-the-numbers reggae tune, but the real key is those tricky bass lines and the really frigged up synth part towards the end. And 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' is simply a fantastic song...probably my second favorite Police tune behind 'Message'...dig those cymbals bouncing all over the stereo spectrum, and I wouldn't want anyone but Sting singing this. And that ain't no jive, Clive. On not many tunes am I taken, hymen and all, by Sting's delivery, but here's one shining example. And when he hacks the other psychic guy apart in the hallway after he came all the way across country and drove in a snowstorm to save Danny and his creepy-as-shit mom, that's just jizz-in-the-popcorn quality.

Ever hear the dirty story about the guy who goes to the movies with this really virginal, shy chick he wants to bag? He buys an extra huge popcorn bucket and cuts a hole in the bottom, sets it on his lap and sticks his erect penis through so, as the girl (apparently quite hungry) eats the popcorn she inevitably starts to stroke his penis. I think the joke has some sort of a punchline, but I can't remember a damn thing about it. Make one up and email it to me. This site is interactive, y'know.

That's NOT what 'Invisible Sun' is about, but it could be, if you can make 'killing everybody in the human race' into a metaphor for 'having a girl unwittingly polish your knob'. Actually, I think it's about Northern Irish violence, but who cares about 21 year old political problems that were undoubtedly solved to everyone's satisfaction long ago. And probably by that strong feminist defender of human rights and freedoms, Marge Thatcher.

.....wait. Someone just filled me in. Fucking bitch. Anyway, who cares if a few sheep-fucker Welshmen get plugged, anyway?

....oh, sorry. Fuck the Haitians. Those fruit-picking, doll-stabbing bastards.

So, whatchoo get when you plunk down your hard-earned bunnies (the Byelorussian currency is actually called the 'bunny'...now that's a lame country.) is more of the usual Police consistency, a little experimentation here, a bunch of horns over there, some synths on all of it. Sting's effort to move the Police's sound towards Music Your Momma Likes is progressing further and further, as evidenced by the flat-out pop spark of the Froggy 'Hungry For You'. Often times, the band seems more like Sting's overgrown soul backing band than the usual three-piece and a piece of chocolate cake overachievers we're used to. But stretched out grooves like 'Demolition Man' are far a more interesting direction than continuing the stripped arrangements that got a bit tiresome last time around. There's also a middle section of 'Demolition Man' that almost sounds like Tattoo You-era Stones, except for the drumming. How's that for punk, eh? Folks may argue that funk stuff like 'Demolition Man' or 'Too Much Information' isn't the Police's style, and they should leave well enough alone, but I'm not in agreement. It's at least as good, in my opinion, as what the Talking Heads did with their big funk band a few years later.

And even if you don't like that new stuff much, it's not like that's all they do. The hyper 'Rehumanize Yourself' is good fun, 'Omega Man' is paranoically rocking, 'Secret Journey' is slick and Synchronous (and better than most stuff on that record). Only 'Darkness' feels like easy listening filler, but even its got some intriguing, out of synch rhythms to help you while away the last few minutes of the record. 

Capn's Final Word: I like it for the same reasons I love Black and Blue...the grooves, man, the grooves!

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Synchronicity - A&M 1983

If you're looking for the Police at their best, move on, for this ain't it. Sting was wresting control and spraying his self-important singing everywhere, everyone was coked up and unhappy, the instrumental playing is often unremarkable to a fault, and they almost never play as a band. If you're happy with acquiring the same radio hits they've been shirking around 'Lite Hits' stations for at last 15 years now, and discarding the rest, you'll probably be delighted with it, though. The problem with Synchronicity is, if it wasn't released as a single, more than likely its a crap song. This is something that never happened before. On Outlandos, the singles were not even the best songs, and on later albums the hits were merely highlights among a lot of strong stuff. Folks could find a lot to love in album tracks like 'Demolition Man' or 'Regatta De Blanc' that never got played on any radio anyhow. But here, no dice. Where's the music on 'Walking In Your Footsteps'? I hear a vocal melody, some tablas, and some feedback. 'O My God' is just some basic, uninteresting reggae Stink bass, some synth whooshes, and some lame drumming. Same goes for 'Miss Gradenko', but the drumming is better. That ain't what I want from my Militsia, man. And I'm not even mentioning the electro-shock torture of 'Mother', by FAR the worst song ever to go under the Police name. I mean, these songs aren't merely sub-standard, they're flat bad. Of course, 'Mother' is Andy's and 'Gradenko' is Stew's, so you see that maybe they weren't paying their Muse very good attention, you know?

I get off far better on the straight-ahead rocking 'Synchronicity II', but DAMN I wish that guitar tone were harder and less chorus-y. Sting and his words frigging rule, and that 'Many miles away' part makes me thing of cloudy moonlit nights and barrels of industrial waste. Cool song. I don't understand the 'Synchronicity' concept on the record, but maybe it's not even there. Oh well. Darn brain flukes always make me look for concepts. 'Tea In The Sahara' and 'Murder By Numbers' point us to the arid creative climes of Stings solo career, where all the emphasis is on Sting doing jazzy melodies with his voice, instead of, I dunno, the harmonica they had on the first album or the ass kicking on the second one. Snore.

The monster hits are, to be sure, also monster songs. 'Every Breast You Bake (Love Theme to Hannibal) may be over-simple, but I get taken in by that bridge and those piano bangs every time. And it's mighty hard to play that thing all the way through without screwing up once, especially since all your arpeggios 's gotta be perfectly in time with the echo box. That Andy Summers is some amazing guy, even when he sounds like he's just about falling asleep. 'King Of Pain' never ceases to remind me of the Weird Al parody, but those tricky beat turns and breathy synths on 'Wrapped Around My Finger' remind me of nothing at all, because it must be pretty groundbreaking. They never did let go of that White Reggae completely, even in their death throes, thank the good Jah.

Capn's Final Word: Now, despite the 4 or 5 great songs, I really don't like listening to this album. It goes too far into the sort of bland jive that Sting passed off as a solo career ever since. But those singles...heavy smack.

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Live! - A&M 1995

A mighty interesting format for an archive live release, Live! gives us one disc of 1978-era Police, and one of 1984-era Sting + former members of the Police. I'll give you a Mars bar if you guess which band is better.

Damn. I'll have to owe you. The '78 band is sloppy as friggin' Nell Carter at a Golden Corral, but it's great stuff. You get Andy flailing all over the guitar on the rocking songs, like he isn't some short old British guy with the face of an accountant. And I don't have to remind you that 'So Lonely' and 'Walking On The Moon' and every other track on here are as much fun as pickin' boogers and poppin' zits in front of a good San Francisco Giants game on the ol' TV. If only they were more willing to turn off the tone-destroying flangers and shit and just bash every song out (like how 'Can't Stand Losing You' doesn't), I'd jack this up to an A, but they try to make it sound like the record. Poopy faces. No great shakes when you get right down to it, but I like all the songs and the Raggedy Ass and Andy feel.

The '84 band sound is much fuller and rote, and, as you may presume, less compelling. They're playing in front of an arena crowd and it sounds it. Surprisingly enough they can still muster up a nice froth on the two 'Synchronicity's (wicked noise guitar solo on 'II'), but playing nearly the entire Synchronicity album is a mistake. At least they saved us from suffering through 'Mother', but stuff like 'Tea In The Sahara' and 'O My God' make no sense in a live setting, especially a bicep-flexin', hair flailin', windmillin' live setting like an arena show. And 'Every Breath' is simply played as faithfully and passionately as possible, but then again, what do you expect a song that resembles a metronome clicking?

The 'arena pleasing' function is performed by the hits from previous records, now relegated to 'let's hear you!' call-and-response and godawful backup singer treatment. Totally spoils a clean and hard 'Message', that would've blew the doors off if Sting hadn't read David Coverdale's How To Play To The Crowd For Fun And Profit  just recently. If I want to hear incompetent backup singer's I'll put on a Joe Cocker concert rather than a former 'Punk' band. And 'Message' isn't alone. 'De Doo Doo Doo' is converted into Big Guitar fodder, 'Roxanne' is shown to be the work tape for 'Spirits In The Material World' it always was, and 'Spirits', in turn, is converted into a Sting ego vehicle. Actually, a lot of this is Sting ego scene chomping. The guy was ready to go and he was serving notice. Another good band bites the proverbial Knob.

Capn's Final Word: So for an album that is only entertaining in parts, I feel I'm doing it a service by giving it a B grade, but only because the songs are so good and they're just some kind of professional motherfuckers, backup singers be goddamned.

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