The Police do not get, perhaps rightly, the musical reflection of the likes of The Clash et al. Time for simple truths here. The Police were one of the first bands that I got into aged about 10. Their 3rd album Zenyatta Mondatta was one of the first albums I ever bought. Given the choice by my grandparents of a skateboard or a vinyl LP I chose the latter. I’m still not sure if I made the right decision as I never, as a result mastered skateboarding in any real terms. This said, Zenyatta Mondatta was one of the first long-playing records that I would actually listen to the whole way through without getting bored and go do something else.
So, in some ways this choice probably made me the musical nut I still am. The bands third album was, with my Smurfs album, one of the few records that I owned and cherished. Anyway, one Monday I came home from school and my Mum had got me a present out of the blue from a record shop in the old Bull Ring. Opening the carrier bag I was fairly gobsmacked to see Outlandos d’Amour. I literally ran to my record player with it. This would have been late 1980, the album is from 1978, this hardly matters.
Immediately the album was better than Zenyatta Mondatta. In 1980 I was yet to hear the Sex Pistols, I mean, I was yet to even hear Adam & The Ants just to underline what an impact Outlandos d’Amour had. New music was a rare experience and this album became a favourite for quite a while.
Whereas Zenyatta Mondatta had, with reflection, a dawn of the 80’s sound – Outlandos d’Amour had the sound of Punk. Tame Punk but only with reflection after I heard The Damned, the Sex Pistols and The Clash, etc. For a good year it was the most electric record in my collection by miles.
Recorded for a less than two grand the album has great, clear production and more importantly – charged catchy songs. I realise that The Police became a very radio friendly band and were hugely succesful but putting things in perspective they were a great band and this was their finest moment. A drummer that you could hear crisply pound his drum kit with precise perfection. Readers of a certain age will probably agree, thinking back, how The Police stood apart for a good few years in terms of chart music. This is no mean feat considering the competition of the time, the late 70’s / early 80’s alternative chart bands really stand the test of time. Adam & The Ants. The Selecter. The Specials. Madness. Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I could go on.
Next To You is one of the bands most unrecognised great songs. It’s fast. Sharp. It’s a showcase of great musicianship and I’m sure many 10 year olds jumped around, on their own, looking at a suitcase turntable and the album sleeve in their bedrooms with cries of ‘turn that down’ being soundly ignored.
So Lonely didn’t chart intially in 1978 as a single. With a 1980 re-release it peaked at Number 6 (the same position that Outlandos d’Amor reached). With a soft yet very charged sound it does blur a line between Pop / Reggae and Punk in a pretty unique way. It’s a great song.
Roxanne became a playground murmur legend of a song due to its subject matter. 10 year olds were like it’s about what… without really understanding. It took another re-release for the record to chart. Again a Punky / Reggae / Pop vibe works incredibly well. Sting can clearly sing and the song is clearly a Pop classic.
Hole In My Life sees the album dip – but not alarmingly so. If anything you needed that foot off the pedal moment. It’s no filler and builds to a round slow chorus.
Peanuts speeds things up again and is another lost favourite of mine. Scraping guitar breaks which I really shouldn’t mention sound like Husker Du would go on to sound like (albeit more venomously) on Zen Arcade about 5 years later.
Can’t Stand Losing You with its Reggae / Rock chuggery is one of those songs that immediately resonates even to a 10-year-old. Fantastic lyrical imagery even if the bit about LP records being scratched maybe lost on the MP3 generation.
Truth Hits Everybody with its muted anthem rolls out of the speakers and when it changes chord progression and churns out chimes of doom realisation it makes me think, to an extent of Nirvana. I’m pretty sure Mr. Cobain heard this album and somewhere it stuck and stayed in the subconsciousness.
Born In The 50’s has a breakdown of a stadium band in the final third part of the arrangement. Although recorded when the band where unknown it indicates where they would end up.
Be My Girl is a bizarre song that sounds initially 60’s style played with punky gusto. A spoken over monologue about a blow up doll which somehow evokes images of A Clockwork Orange emerges before the initial riff consumes the sound again.
Masoka Tanga is a song I ignored largely as a kid. Only when I heard it played in a dub tent at Glastonbury in the late 80’s by a DJ did I realise the vibe of the song. Hidden depths.
I’ve referenced both Husker Du and Nirvana in this write-up which was unplanned but listening to the album now those references are, for me, pretty real.
The Police would go on to become Spitting Image mockery subjects and were to an extent victims of their own success. It’s not cool to like them nowadays but I can tell you now that many kids getting turned onto music in the early 80’s started with this band. Truth is I’d put this album on today before almost any Clash record, just check out Copeland on the drums, that’s inspiration to pick up an instrument and develop your own style if ever I saw / heard it…