Friday, February 12, 2010

434. Outlandos d'Amour- Further police brutality.

Album: Outlandos d'Amour

Artist: The Police.

Year: 1978

Genre: Rock


  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

I have to admit I was really disappointed to encounter this album in the top 500. I naively assumed I’d done The Police when I reviewed their last release back at album 455 which I thought was their only entry into this list. I expressed my views on Sting and his band and generally made my opinions felt. Bumping into another album further up the countdown was a surprise and made me curious to know just how many of their releases I’m going to have to review. The Answer is four. Throughout this countdown I’m going to have to endure two more encounters with police harassment.

While Synchronicty was their last hurrah and Sting’s rehearsal for his solo career, Outlandos d’Amour was the first album that the trio recorded which means I’m effectively bookending their career. So did they improve over time and break-up having grown musically or did they run out of ideas compared to the stellar heights of their original release? Neither. To my mind they just mutated into a different variety of suck.

The Police started as a reggae punk band which was probably their first mistake. The Clash pulled off a combination of punk and reggae but they’re the only ones who have ever managed it. Everyone else who has tried has ended up taking the worst aspects of both without bringing the best aspects of either. The Police are no exception. The element of punk they brought to the table was the simple chorus repeated often which they combined with a cod-reggae beat to make something that is truly irritating.

Nowhere is this more annoying than on the lead single and a song that must have plagued anyone unfortunate enough to be christened Roxanne. Anyone who bears that name must be indescribably sick of having people sing “Roooxanne” to them when introduced. Would it be less annoying if the woman the Police was singing about wasn’t a prostitute? I think the answer is probably no. The only thing more annoying than a Sting impression is a genuine Sting vocal.

The really grating thing about Roxanne (and most of the rest of the album) is the reggae beat. Now I should probably put my cards on the table at this point and admit that I don’t like reggae. I know I’m supposed to, it’s the one musical form that everyone is supposed to like. “How can you not like Reggae?” I hear you cry. “Don’t you like Bob Marley?” The answer is no, no I don’t. I respect him but I don’t enjoy listening to his music. I’m going to have to later on in the countdown and who knows, maybe I’ll change my tune but for now I can say that Marley does nothing for me at all. So if I don’t like the one man whose name is synonymous with Reggae, the Elvis of the genre, why would I want to hear three white guys ripping it off? Reggae music came out of the hardship of poverty in Afro-Caribbean culture and is at its best when played by people with a foothold in the traditions rather than by white people from first world countries. White Reggae is like Clear cola, black mass and green bowel movements- the worst kind of wrong.

Most white people just don’t have the voice for Reggae. It’s a genre that needs to be sung in a deeper, sonorous Jamaican tone. Sting’s thin and reedy voice just doesn’t work, at least not in this context. When he sings whiteboy songs like Every Breath You Take he does a more than credible job. But when he actually attempts to use Reggae inflections and phrasing as in Roxanne and So Lonely he misses the mark in a major way.

Debut albums are often a bands finest hour. They tend to be chock full of ideas created during the years spent trying to land a record contract. Be My Girl Sally would seem to undercut this argument somewhat. The Sally in question is an inflatable sex doll- that traditional figure of fun and merriment. The song isn’t an actual tune as much as it is a childishly rude poem with a tacked-on and forgettable chorus. Summers recites lines like:

“I took her to the bedroom
And pumped her with some life,
And later in a moment
That girl became my wife”

It’s one of those tracks that usually crops up late in a bands career before the inevitable break up:

“Well that’s it, I’m out of ideas. We’ve pillaged the unreleased tracks from the back catalogue, I’ve rewritten some of our old hits in a different key with a tempo change and we’ve got a few covers scraped together. Can anything think of something else we can cram on here to pad this bastard out to an album’s length?”

Well I’ve got a poem I wrote back when I was 15.

“It’s not that naff one you wrote about the blow up doll is it?”

“…might be.”

“Oh allright then. We’ll bang on a chorus and hope it’s not too crap.”

Sadly it is crap and it’s hard to believe they didn’t have anything better than this lying around to include instead.

Clearly Police fans and I don’t really see eye-to-eye. I wouldn’t have included either of their albums on a top 500 list but if I was forced to at truncheon point I would have put Synchronicity above this collection of Reggae rip-offs.

Highlight: Um… born in the fifties?

Lowlight: Possibly the amazingly pretentious title.

Influenced by: The Clash, who did this stuff much better and Bob Marley.

Influenced: Post Punk.

Favorite Amazon Customer Review Quote: “Here you find a new but seasoned group following the lead of a lyrical genius, all you need to really comprehend the significance of this album is a REAL knowledge of the pain and struggle to say "YOUR PIECE"....”

-I’m not running with the idea of Sting as a musical genius and as for the rest of the review…

So it's part punk, it's part Reggae- but is it all good or all bad? Let me know below.

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