THE POLICE: OUTLANDOS D'AMOUR (1978)
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 '50s; 9. Be My Girl--Sally; 10. Masoko Tanga
Best song: ROXANNE
The erstwhile Gordon Sumner is probably second only to Phil Collins in both the division between fans of their solo careers and fans of their former bands, and the hatred said solo career receives from certain fans of their band. Therefore, many people who have never heard anything by The Police other than maybe "Every Breath You Take" tend to be willing to write the band off, and I know I did for quite awhile. Sure, I liked the few hits I'd heard on the radio, but for the longest time I was most familiar with Sting for his cameo on "Money for Nothing." Now that I've gotten into the band, though, I realize what a mistake that was. Take this album, their debut--there's punk, reggae, pop, tango, and straight-ahead rock all put together in this appealing package. Also, Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland are all terrific players, especially Copeland, and I was shocked to find out what a good bassist Sting was--not to make too much out of the rather weak Collins comparison, but both men would be highly respected for their talents even if they'd never even stepped up to a mike. One thing that slightly annoys me about this album, though, and that the band never truly corrects, is that they don't have a goddamn clue how to end a fucking song. Just about every song here consists of Sting repeating the chorus (which usually consists of just the title) over and over until it eventually fades. The funny thing is, this doesn't really bother me on any of the individual songs, but it can be a bit of a pain in the ass when listening to the entire album. In fact, that issue and the issue of "Born in the 50s" sucking a fat one are the only reasons that I don't consider this the band's best album.
Opener "Next To You" is the perfect microcosm of the diversity I mentioned earlier. Sure, it starts out like a fairly normal punk song, albeit with love-themed lyrics (a major point of contention between Sting and Stewart Copeland, I believe, and far from the last) and above-average playing. But then, about halfway into the song, Andy Summers busts out...a bluesy slide solo. Not only is completely out of place in the song, it's completely out of place in the entire Police discography, and I love it! There isn't a moment on the album quite as stark as that on the rest of the album, but the diversity is one of the album's strong points. Everybody's heard "Roxanne," I'd assume, and everybody either loves it or needs to get the hell off of my site, but the other mega-single, "Can't Stand Losing You," is hardly worse, and introduces the trademark Police gimmick of pairing an incredibly depressing/disturbing lyric with an incredibly catchy melody, which happens to be one of my favorite gimmicks in all of pop music. The other punkish song on here, the Sting/Copeland collaboration "Peanuts," has a great guitar solo, and nicely balances punk anger with humorous overtones(most Sting/Copeland collaborations involved Sting rewriting lyrics to a song Stew had already written, but I don't know if that's the case here). Fan favorite "So Lonely" is great, too, even if fans do tend to overrate it a little bit--it's either the fifth or sixth best song on the album! And it's great!
Now, "Truth Hits Everybody" and "Hole In My Life" are good songs for sure, but their verse melodies aren't as strong as the other songs, so all you have to latch onto is that damn title being repeated over and over and over. Good, but hardly standouts on the album. What isn't good is the album's sole misfire, "Born in the 50s." Even disregarding the fact that Andy was born in the 40s (he had been in the music scene for 15 years before joining the band, mainly as a session man but with a stint in Eric Burdon's Animals--some punk he was!), the band's try for an overt "classic rock" sound just doesn't do it for me. The lyrics are pretty dumb, too, so yeah, I'm going to throw in with critical consensus on that one. Where I break from consensus, however, is the following "Be My Girl--Sally." Yes, the chorus is incredibly simplistic, and yes, Andy's spoken-word bit about a blow-up doll is incredibly stupid. But being an incredibly simplistic, stupid kind of guy myself, I just get the biggest kick out of the proceedings. I think what sells the poem section to me is how Andy's reading effectively straddles the line between sincere and sarcastic (only a British person could pull this off), making the character's perversion seem rather amusing. It's hardly a classic, but I like it, so there.
The album wraps up with the exotic "Masoko Tanga," which allows everybody ample space to showcase their talents and is one of the group's finest instrumentals. Overall, Outlandos d'Amour is a necessity for anybody with an interest in The Police, and anybody with an interest in this era of rock music should check it out. Even those who have sworn never to buy anything with Sting's name on it should give it a try--chances are you'll be pleasantly surprised.