Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Police 1: Outlandos d’Amour

The Police were an odd lot, even for a power trio. American drummer Stewart Copeland and a singer/bassist named Sting seemed to stand much taller than guitarist Andy Summers, who’s about ten years older than the other two. All three came from jazz fusion backgrounds, but the times dictated a punk attitude and approach. That’s one reason why Outlandos d’Amour has something of a DIY vibe, in the cover art anyway.
The music isn’t that complicated either, even given the members’ prog-rock credentials. “Next To You” is tailor-made for pogoing, before “So Lonely” veers between a reggae verse and double-time chorus. With Sting’s high-pitched vocal and those odd guitar chords, “Roxanne” was likely most people’s introduction to the band. “Hole In My Life” and “Can’t Stand Losing You” became anthems for lovelorn kids everywhere.
One thing that comes to mind listening to the album after all these years—after Sting spent all that time being concerned about rainforests and whatnot—was that the Police once recorded “silly” songs. The Sting we know today would never have a song like “Peanuts” on one of his solo albums, much less sing it. In that light, songs like “Truth Hits Everybody” and even “Born In The 50s” gave them the image of a smart band. Such a label is hard to stick in light of “Be My Girl – Sally”, in which a simple pop chant frames the nursery rhyme-style ode to a blowup doll. (The novelty gets thinner considering that Roxy Music had already covered that subject five years earlier, but at least this ode is happier.)
While the band would evolve over time, much of their typical sound is in place on Outlandos d’Amour, almost encapsulated by “Masoko Tanga”, a near-instrumental jam for slashing guitar, melodic bass, reggae-tinged drums and nonsense vocals. Because of its quality and simplicity, it’s still a fine debut, and a nice diversion from some of the comparatively heavier things to come from the band.

The Police Outlandos d’Amour (1978)—

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