The Police

The Police during a concert. From left to right:
Sting (bass and vocals), Stewart Copeland (drums), and Andy Summers (guitar)

The Police are my band. No, I don't own them in anyway, and no doubt there are numerous people who have been listening to them longer than I have (especially considering they'd disbanded before I was even born!). But since my days in elementary school, I have been listening to these guys, and for a lot of that time, no one else. The Police, and then Sting's solo career, were the only thing I listened to for quite awhile. My brother had gotten ahold of their "greatest hits" CD and we'd listen to it in the car as he drove me to the arcade or someplace, and I was enthralled with it unlike anything I'd ever heard before. I remember quickly buying the greatest hits for myself on tape, since people still bought tapes in those days.

Thankfully, the internet was just starting to become popular and mainstream in those days, so I finally had a source of information on this band. Quickly, the "greatest hits" wasn't enough and I needed the rest of all the music they'd produced, so I saved up for months until I just barely had enough to buy their boxset "Message in a Box" on CD. While I had all of Sting's solo material on cassette, I was mostly interested in The Police. Once I had that set, these guys were just about all I listened to for a few years.

What's so inspiring about The Police? Well, people will give you quite a few reasons, but here were mine as a kid: I liked the clean guitar lines. I liked the catchy melodies. And primarily, I liked the drumming. Even before I knew how to really drum, or what a drumset really looked like, I could air drum all The Police songs within a year of getting those CDs. I primarily attribute my interest in drumming to Stewart Copeland, whose style is so uniquely his that it's obvious whenever someone tries to cop him. When it came to drumming, he was and is my idol. Even for those not particularly interested in drums, his unique rhythms always seem to stand out and it's just so much more exciting than it would be with anyone else in his place.

That being said, now that I'm older I can really see all three of this guys were chops monsters. Stewart I think takes the cake, but Andy provided all sorts of clever riffs and sounds and noises into the songs, making them far more interesting than if in the hands of your typical session guy. Then you've got Sting, the master of repetitive, memorable basslines. His bass prowess is immense, but often it's the more restrained parts he comes up with that are even more striking. How many people cite that simple eighth note bassline to "Every Breath you Take" as the very best part? On the records these guys play it pretty restrained (usually), so be sure to pick up their live album or, better yet, catch them on their reunion tour, where you can see them really cut loose.

Anyway, to sum up their sound, The Police played a mix of punk, reggae, pop, and rock. Each album showed a little bit more emphasis on one: Outlandos emphasized punk, Reggatta reggae, Zenyatta pop. If you like their any of their songs at all, you've gotta get all five albums, they're just all necessary. Trust me, they're all good, and if you like any one of them you'll likely get along with all the rest.

Now, onto the reviews...

Outlandos D'Amour
Rating: 4
Release date: 11/2/1978
Favorite song: Roxanne
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Next to You5Sting
So Lonely5Sting
Roxanne5Sting
Hole in my Life5Sting
Peanuts4Sting; Copeland
Can't Stand Losing You5Sting
Truth Hits Everybody4Sting
Born in the '50s1Sting
Be my Girl-Sally1Sting; Summers
Masoko Tanga3Sting
OK, so they're not really quite sure what they're doing just yet. Stewart and Andy apparently wanted a rough edge to the band, so there's plenty of upbeat punkier songs on here. In fact, they rather dominate the album. The reggae aspect is only beginning to show up, mostly in the big singles So Lonely, Can't Stand Losing You and of course the famous Roxanne, but it's certainly not taken as far as it will go later on. It's still mostly punky rock tunes with the occasional reggae feel thrown in for the verses. The songs themselves are all top quality already though. OK, so the brisk opening number "Next to You" isn't nearly as inventive as what they come up with later on, but it's still catchy enough to warrant a 5 (plus, it's sort of a classic now). While the album starts off wonderfully, with 7 nearly perfect songs, the last three throw the album way off course. Born in the '50s is a boring rock song about the '50s generation, and it seems most reviewers agree this is a lowpoint of the album. Be my Girl-Sally is two songs, the Be my Girl being a short, unfinished song by Sting, and the Sally being Andy's poem about an inflatable girlfriend. Silly, but of little musical importance. Now, Masoko Tanga on the other hand... here the band flexes their muscles and break into a nearly 6 minute jam. It's got a trippy vibe and it's kinda pointless, admittedly, but an interesting listen nonetheless and certainly a memorable closer. Anyway, most of the material is really strong, especially considering they didn't really know what they were trying to do yet as a band, and so overall an impressive debut.


Reggatta de Blanc
Rating: 5
Release date: 10/5/1979
Favorite song: Message in a Bottle
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Message in a Bottle6Sting
Reggatta de Blanc5Sting/Summers/Copeland
It's Alright for You3Copeland; Sting
Bring on the Night5Sting
Deathwish3Copeland/Summers/Sting
Walking on the Moon6Sting
On Any Other Day4Copeland
The Bed's too Big Without You5Sting
Contact4Copeland
Does Everyone Stare5Copeland
No Time This Time5Sting
In some ways, this should be considered their best record I suppose. It's where they really figure out how to really combine rock and reggae and we get wonderful tunes like Bring on the Night and the coolest song ever, Walking on the Moon. It's just so damn groovy and cool, and The Cure would kill to have that much space in a song. Let's not forget the big hit single, Message in a Bottle, another huge smash that for me is the perfect rock 'n' roll song, one which I've probably listened to a thousand times. That riff simply never gets old. The rest of the stuff is mostly Copeland material, oddly, which is hardly subpar at all. You get punky stuff, you get weird stuff, and all of it has these goofy lyrics about everyday things. But you'll never see this amount of cooperation out of the band again, as Sting starts slowly taking over the albums after this one. Like Outlandos, there are indeed a few songs that don't quite stack up; Deathwish and It's Alright for You bring little to the table, but aren't outright offensive like say, Born in the '50s. So there are some definite, definite great songs on here, and the rest ranges from decent to really strong. Probably the best place to start with these guys.


Zenyatta Mondatta
Rating: 4
Release date: 10/3/1980
Favorite song: Don't Stand so Close to Me
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Don't Stand so Close to Me6Sting
Driven to Tears5Sting
When the World is Running Down, you Make the Best of What's Still Around5Sting
Canary in a Coalmine4Sting
Voices Inside my Head5Sting
Bombs Away5Copeland
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da5Sting
Behind my Camel2Summers
Man in a Suitcase4Sting
Shadows in the Rain2Sting
The Other Way of Stopping2Copeland
Many consider this the band's best, but I'm not sure why. Yes, the first 7 songs are great (hm, just like Outlandos) but things drop a bit after that. Once again we have a pair of singles that crush all the rest of the material: Don't Stand so Close to Me, which trades-off between quiet, moody verses and an in-your-face catchy-as-anything chorus, and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da which also contains a ridiculously catchy chorus, as you can probably guess from the title. The rest of the music doesn't quite stack up but it often does come quite close. Bombs Away is probably just about my favorite of the non-singles actually, despite not being written by Sting. It's just a pretty straightforward pop song I s'pose, but it has a nifty Eastern sounding guitar solo from Andy. The low points are once again all thrown in at the end: Behind my Camel is interesting for a little while but becomes an annoying, repetitive instrumental quickly. Shadows in the Rain as a long, trippy, repetitive jam that occasionally works, if you're The Cure. For The Police, I don't think it works well at all, and Sting's solo version of this song is actually quite a bit more engaging. Stew's closing instrumental is decent but mostly uninteresting. Sigh... what started off as one of their most consistent albums ends with three songs that are among some of their weakest as a band. I wanted to rate it a 5, I really did, but it was just too rushed I guess.


BEST ALBUM
Ghost in the Machine
Rating: 5
Release date: 10/2/1981
Favorite song: Every Little Thing she Does is Magic
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Spirits in the Material World5Sting
Every Little Thing she Does is Magic6Sting
Invisible Sun5Sting
Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)4Sting
Demolition Man4Sting
Too Much Information2Sting
Rehumanize Yourself5Sting; Copeland
One World (Not Three)5Sting
Omegaman5Summers
Secret Journey5Sting
Darkness5Copeland
The most underrated album by the band. Well, it's not too surprising, as the band decided to layer their sparse three-piece sound with synthesizers and saxophones all of a sudden. Well, actually, Sting decided, I'm willing to bet. Nonetheless, that's going to turn a lot of people off, especially those who enjoyed the punkier aesthetics of the band from before. I still find this to be their most consistent work, however. The weakest song is no doubt the repetitive Too Much Information, which simply goes nowhere for its blessedly short duration. Otherwise, it's all good stuff! The opening three songs are the singles, and probably the best stuff on the album. Every Little Thing... is without a doubt the catchiest pop song these guys ever did, and if the ridiculously catchy chorus weren't enough, they throw on this extended ending that keep building and building towards a climax. It works perfectly. This slice of pure pop is sandwiched in-between Spirits in the Material World, a sinister sounding reggae song, and Invisible Sun, their most brooding and menacing song in their catalog. The whole album really tends to go back and forth between poppy jams like Hungry for You and One World, which by the way has some of Copeland's most fantastic drumming, and darker numbers, like the last three songs, all of which are fantastic. Omegaman is Andy's best contribution to the group, a somewhat progressive sounding song with a great guitar line. Darkness is wonderful for it's interesting synth arrangement and Stew's lyrics about boredom and darkness. This is definitely the most controversial of Police releases, so... well, I certainly like it, but you may not. I think it mostly depends on whether or not you can tolerate eighties production and, frankly, these guys go easy on it.


Synchronicity
Rating: 5
Release date: 6/1/1983
Favorite song: King of Pain
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Synchronicity I5Sting
Walking in Your Footsteps3Sting
O my God4Sting
Mother0Summers
Miss Gradenko3Copeland
Synchronicity II5Sting
Every Breath you Take6Sting
King of Pain6Sting
Wrapped Around Your Finger5Sting
Tea in the Sahara5Sting
Murder by Numbers4Sting; Summers
As you can see, Sting basically owns this album, with each bandmate getting just one inclusion. I won't comment much on that, other than to just point it out. The overall vibe of this album is so much different than the others. There's no reggae at all, and other than a few speedy numbers, hardly any traces of punk. It's pop with a bit of rock thrown in but I'll be damned if this isn't a really strong album. It bucks the usual trend of having a stronger first half though. While the first half isn't bad, it is marred by the weird dinosaur song Walking in Your Footsteps (which is actually way cool live), and Andy's ear-wrenching Mother which makes me want to kill myself. I think Sting only let it on the album to show people how much better of a songwriter he was, or something. He'd do something spiteful like that, anyway. Once you get to the awesome prog-rocker Synchronicity II however, it's all gold. Sting presents us like five of his best compositions ever, all in a row. It's ridiculous how good all of these songs are, really. The high point for me is King of Pain, basically the ultimate pop-rock song if there ever was one. Anyway, you've probably heard all these songs dozens of times on the radio anyhow, so no use describing them. Just know that even though it doesn't sound much like the Police anymore, the songwriting is just as strong as it ever was if not even better, and therefore we've got one of their strongest releases as their swansong. Not a bad way to go out.


Message in a Box
Rating: 5
Release date: 9/28/1993
Favorite song: I Burn for You
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Fallout4Copeland
Nothing Achieving5Copeland
Dead End Job5Sting, Copeland, Summers
(Outlandos D'Amour)
Landlord (Live)3Sting/Copeland
Next to You (Live)3Sting
Landlord3Sting/Copeland
(Reggatta de Blanc)
Visions of the Night1Sting
The Bed's too Big Without You (Mono)5Sting
Truth Hits Everybody (Live)4Sting
Friends3Summers
(Zenyatta Mondatta)
A Sermon2Copeland
Driven to Tears (Live)5Sting
Shambelle5Summers
(Ghost in the Machine)
Flexible Strategies1Sting, Copeland, Summers
Low Life4Sting
How Stupid Mr Bates2Sting, Copeland, Summers
A Kind of Loving0Sting, Copeland, Summers
(Synchronicity)
Man in a Suitcase (Live)5Sting
Someone to Talk To5Summers
Message in a Bottle (Live)5Sting
I Burn for You5Sting
Once Upon a Daydream4Sting, Summers
Tea in the Sahara (Live)5Sting
Don't Stand so Close to Me '865Sting
Well, I gotta say: it's definitely worth it to get the boxset rather than the individual albums. If you like The Police there's some stuff on here you just gotta have. Yeah, it's really hit and miss, no doubt, but the hits are definitely worth the price of admission. The live tracks range from nothing too special (Truth Hits Everybody) to frickin' great (Driven to Tears, wow!). The Police were a great live band though, so the live cuts alone, even if not always much different from the record, are a nice addition. But some of these songs are real classics. The early punk stuff is a must-have, and some of the b-sides from the Synchronicity era are great as well. Andy even has some great stuff on here! As for misses, there's some really weird instrumental stuff on disc 3, and I have to mention that A Kind of Loving is no doubt the most ear-destructive noise these guys ever put together (you think Mother was bad?). I pity the fool who can get through all three minutes of that abomination. But there's also Andy's cool instrumental Shambelle, which has some wonderful drumming. Anyway, to say it again, be sure to pick this up for all the cool rarities.


LIVE!
Rating: 5
Release date: 6/13/1995
Favorite song: King of Pain
TracklistRatingWords; Music
Next to You5Sting
So Lonely5Sting
Truth Hits Everybody4Sting
Walking on the Moon4Sting
Hole in my Life5Sting
Fall Out4Copeland
Bring on the Night5Sting
Message in a Bottle5Sting
The Bed's too Big Without You5Sting
Peanuts5Sting; Copeland
Roxanne5Sting
Can't Stand Losing You4Sting
Landlord3Sting; Copeland
Born in the '50s1Sting
Be my Girl, Sally1Sting/Summers
Synchronicity I5Sting
Synchronicity II5Sting
Walking in Your Footsteps3Sting
Message in a Bottle5Sting
O My God4Sting
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da5Sting
Wrapped Around Your Finger5Sting
Tea in the Sahara5Sting
Spirits in the Material World5Sting
King of Pain6Sting
Don't Stand so Close to Me5Sting
Every Breath you Take5Sting
Roxanne4Sting
Can't Stand Losing You5Sting
So Lonely5Sting
The Police were one band that definitely needed a live album. Sting was staunchly against it back when they were active since he felt they had plenty of new material all the time, but by the time 1995 rolled around it was hard to deny that there was little reason not to have one. So we get this interesting 2-CD set: a show from before Reggatta de Blanc and then a show from after Synchronicity. The differences are stunning of course: just listen to the So Lonely on disk 1 and then compare it to the Synchronicity show. The former has so much more energy, the whole band just seems way more into it. This trend continues on all the songs, really. While the first disk does have the most energy, one cannot deny that the second disk is quite strong too. The Police are still a fantastic live band. Better tracklisting too! All the big hits are here and quite good, such as a fantastic De Do Do Do... and my favorite, a great King of Pain. Most of the songs are no worse than their recorded counterparts, with the exception of Walking on the Moon. Sad to say I feel like Stewart was just too busy on this one, and it lacks the punch of the original. Otherwise, you can't really go wrong with this set if you're a Police fan: 30 interesting live versions of great songs.