THE POLICE: REGATTA DE BLANC (1979)
1. Message in a Bottle; 2. Regatta de Blanc; 3. It's Alright For You; 4. Bring on the Night; 5. Deathwish; 6. Walking on the Moon; 7. On Any Other Day; 8. The Bed's Too Big Without You; 9. Contact; 10. Does Everyone Stare; 11. No Time This Time
Best song: MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
The second Police album is my personal favorite, but, as can be expected when a band releases only five albums, there's hardly a consensus, especially when a band is so consistent. Every Police album is pretty great, but Regatta is the only one on which I consider every song to be great. Okay, "Deathwish" falls a little short of greatness, as it's the only song here that I can't effortlessly start humming, but it's still a fine song. The radical tempo changes seem to indicate that the song evolved out of a group jam (and the fact that everybody gets a writing credit only supports this theory), which explains why it falls slightly short. But whatever, I'm not here to talk about the A- level song, I'm here to talk about the other ten songs on this baby!
The best Police album starts out with the best Police song, the undeniable classic "Message in a Bottle." The lyrics capture the feeling of isolation perfectly, the chorus is catchy as all get-out, and the band figured out how to solve their ending problem--underpin the endless repetition of a phrase (not the title, for once!) with some great Andy Summers guitar licks! Without the continued bleating of "Sending out an SOS," the guitar parts would seem rather boring, and without the guitar the singing would get old fast, but they work perfectly together. "Walking on the Moon" is another undeniable classic--absolutely fantastic atmosphere on that track. On paper, a line like "hoping that my legs don't break, walking on the moon" seems just ridiculously stupid, but it just works on the album--Sting's vocal performance really sells the song. The Police are like that a lot for me actually--they seem to have a lot of songs and ideas that if I just heard about them, I would hate, but I actually end up loving them! That's a sign of a great band, and proof that Sting, at least at one point, had the ability to use his vocals to really make a song great. I still have no idea what the hell his accent is supposed to be.
The "white reggae" alluded to in the album's title is most prominent in "Bring on the Night" and "The Bed's Too Big Without You." "Bring on the Night" has interesting lyrics from the point of view of a condemned man, and "Bed" has a fascinating guitar line that seems to come out of nowhere and flit between speakers. Really neat production trick by Andy, who, despite a lack of truly memorable solos on the album, and really a lack of true riffs, is always an important presence with his constant use of inventive textures and tones--he's the perfect example of a guitarist who supplements his bandmates instead of drawing attention to himself. Closer "No Time This Time" ends the album on a rocking note, with yet another impeccable melody. It's a song that could easily be construed as filler if it weren't so great.
This is also the closest the band ever came to releasing a democratic album, with only five of eleven songs credited to Sting alone, although ,as per usual, he gets both singles. Besides the afore-mentioned "Deathwish," the group collaborates on the instrumental "Regatta de Blanc," featuring some absolutely ferocious Stew drumming and netting the band a well-deserved Grammy. The Grammys are a complete sack of shit, especially considering that this was the year that The Wall lost to Christopher fucking Cross, but occasionally they stumble ass-backwards into getting it right. The song actually developed from a live jam the band inserted into "Can't Stand Losing You," and I'm glad they decided to record it in the studio. Stew gets four songs on the album (one of them, "It's Alright for You," a Sting co-write), and, perhaps surprisingly, all of them are great! The reason for more democracy is that the album was recorded in a rush, and the band had a severe lack of material (they even considered re-recording first single "Fall Out," and I would actually be interested to hear what Andy, who wasn't in the band back then, would do with it), but you'd hardly know it from listening to this album. "It's Alright for You" and "Contact" fulfill the role of rockers on the album. They aren't what I come to the album for, but damned if I don't enjoy them when they're on. "Contact" in particular has a great riff.
The other two Stew songs don't really fit the white reggae of the album, and while this might annoy some people, I find them to be a nice diversion. Copeland actually sings "On Any Other Day," and while he can't actually sing worth a shit, Sting's dramatic vocal style wouldn't have worked with the jerky melody at all. The basic concept of the song can be summed up in the introduction, where Stew deadpans, "You want something corny? You got it!" and the song certainly lives up to it, playing the most shitty day imaginable for laughs. Also, just a note to those who might want to say that the song is homophobic because one of the complaints is "My fine young son has turned out gay"--in the context of the song, it's just that the guy doesn't want to deal with the revelation on a day when his daughter ran away, he finds out his wife has been cheating on him, and he cuts off his fucking fingers in the car door! It would be okay on any other day! Also, remember the song is over 30 years old--today, we could debate rather or not somebody's son being gay is even something that they'd have to deal with, but for 1979 it's not at all unreasonable. The son has terrible timing, anyway, just because he's an asshole fucker doesn't give him the right to be a fucking asshole! Okay, I'm sorry for that...Prindle makes it seem so effortless! Anyway, if you like "On Any Other Day," check out Copeland's solo work under the name Klark Kent--it sounds exactly like it!
Copeland's real winner, though, is "Does Everyone Stare," which is probably the best song he ever wrote (I haven't heard any of his non-Kent solo work, so I can't say for sure). The first awesome thing is how the first verse is actually the original demo, just Stew singing over some rudimentary piano chords, tape hiss and all. An inexplicable opera singer marks the transition to Sting taking over the vocals and actual produced music coming in behind him. The song is just a great peon to socially awkward losers everywhere--as a card-carrying member of that particular sect, this is one of the best ruminations on a hopeless crush that I've heard. It doesn't take itself too seriously ("I change my clothes ten times before I take you on a date"), but isn't a complete mockery either, and, thank God, doesn't turn into a complete wangst-fest like so many like-minded songs do. Besides, the final verse is just about perfect: "I'm gonna write you a sonnet but I don't know where to start/I'm so used to laughing at the things in my heart/Last of all I'm sorry 'cos you never asked for this/I can see I'm not your type and my shots will always miss, always miss!" I've been there, believe me. I know this is an almost ludicrous opinion, but the single best verse of lyrics in a Police song (except maybe "Synchronicity II") was written by Stewart Copeland. Hell, I'm even thankful that the coda goes on a bit too long, so I don't lose my fucking mind and decide it's the best song on the album.
So, unless you for some reason find the concept of "white reggae" to be offensive, you really should get this album. It has "Message in a Bottle," "Walking on the Moon," and you get to hear Stewart Copeland sing! What more can a person ask out of an album?