The Police Outlandos D’Amor

[A&M; 1978]

Styles: pop, rock, punk, reggae, new wave, jazz-rock
Others: Blondie, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Squeeze, XTC

This review is for the younger readers. Somewhere along the line, The Police became relegated to oldie status, the Every Breath You Take Band, with enough hit singles to keep a dive bar’s jukebox going for an evening. Sting has remained on the celebrity radar screen, with his tantric self all over adult-pop stations for nigh on two decades. Before all this, however, The Police were a badass transcontinental trio; they defined being labeled as anything, and fearlessly stood at the crossroads of punk, jazz, reggae, and pop. For those seeking an album of raw energy and enthusiasm to complement a summer afternoon drive, The Police’s debut effort, 1978’s Outlandos D’Amor, is the one.

Sting belts out the opening lines of track one, “Next To You,” with fierce energy, over a back-to-basics guitar and drum arrangement. What keeps it from being another bare bones rock song is soon evident in the short choruses, which come equipped with group vocals and subtle harmonies, without ever letting the enthused mood of the song drop.  Andy Summers’ guitar work here is experimental without losing its way; concise, yet wholly original.

Other highlights on the record include the impressive “Hole In My Life.” All three members come together for a bizarre jazz infused number, offering young listeners of late ‘70s rock radio a crash course, touching on the concepts of syncopation, hip chords, as well as offering a staggering demonstration of how good music can sound when band members are listening to each other, and playing together. Sting, Summers and Copeland are at their symbiotic best here, as they carry on a three part musical conversation complete with beginning, middle and end, with the tightness of a one act play. Upbeat fusions of pop and punk are evident once more in “Peanuts,” and “Truth Hits Everybody.” In the latter, Sting’s voice drops down a bit for the verses, lending the tune a darker atmosphere, but picks back up for the chorus and bridge. It’s this type of contrast that The Police are so good at: able to change moods within measures by subtle changes in voice and instrument, their songs have the spontaneous nature of a multi-colored painting, and are a shining example of how musicians should play together, regardless of genre.

The album is by no means perfect, as is evident by the hokey “Born In The ‘50s,” a failed homage to the post-war age. Such awkward misses are more than compensated for, however, by the presence of so many dead on hits. Speaking of hits, until now, this review has not bothered to make mention of “Roxanne,” “So Lonely,” or “Can’t Stand Losing You.” We would require zero contact with radio for our entire lives not to know these songs already.  Good as they are, for this writer, it is the deeper album cuts on this record that are so worth hearing and ultimately so satisfying. Listening to Sting urge us towards personal liberation before Summers’s virtuosic guitar solos kick in is the perfect remedy to ratchet up the oomph factor on a summer afternoon when the heat is kicking all our lazy asses.

1. Next to You
2. So Lonely
3. Roxanne
4. Hole In My Life
5. Peanuts
6. Can't Stand Losing You
7. Truth Hits Everybody
8. Born in the `50's
9. Be My Girl - Sally
10. Masoko Tanga