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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Police -- Synchronicity


9/10

It is useful to look at the side change for the vinyl version of The Police's final studio album, Synchronicity, to fully understand it. The first side serves as the first half of an eclectic, slightly uneven, strangely reggae-less Police record, and the second is Sting's audition as a solo artist. The first includes the two-part album-titled  energetic rocker song cycle, the world-music-inspired "Walking in Your Footsteps," the jazzy, downbeat "O My God," Andy Summers' bonkers "Mother," and Stewart Copeland's quick, pleasant "Miss Gradenko." The latter two songs, written respectively by the band's guitarist and guitar player, are their last for the band. "Mother" is an atonal nightmare, a bit of a joke with Summers wailing about his mother, but good fun if you're expecting it. "Miss Gradenko" is another Copeland song that would sound better if someone besides Sting sang it--Sting sounds again out of his element and disinterested singing Copeland's song.
Flip the record, though, and you hear a side from an entirely different album. It kicks off with "Every Breath You Take," The Police's biggest hit, and one of the best-selling rock songs of all time. Sting shows up with an entirely new singing voice, smooth, deeper, pitch perfect, as if he's been saving it for this exact moment. The song is ubiquitous, and has been for more than 30 years...and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't great. With its strange , haunting mix of voyeurism and seduction, it's a timeless song. Sting follows this up with "King of Pain." It's near adult contemporary, and Summers and Copeland are relegated to mere supporting players, but it's another timeless one. "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is the same. The vinyl closes with "Tea in the Sahara," a haunting, atmospheric song, featuring minimalistic, but ethereal textures by Summers, subtle, lovely rhythm from Copeland, and one of Sting's most haunting sets of lyrics and vocals.
This is the final full-length work by a band who were getting into fistfights with each other and couldn't even be in the same room during the recording process. It's easy to see in the sleeve photo, with Sting wearing sunglasses and his bandmates eyes naked, that he is too cool for school here, and ready to leave the talented, but equally headstrong Copeland and Summers behind. The tension, though, resulted in a great album, not perfect due to its inconsistency, but great. Even with Sting wielding a heavy-hand, Copeland and Summers' singular talent at their respective instruments shines through in each song. Even though Sting wields that hand heaviest on the second side, it's probably the strongest four song streak the band, and Sting himself for that matter, have put to tape.
If you listen to this through a more modern medium than vinyl, you also get the bonus closer, "Murder by Numbers," a jazzy, political song that is icing on Synchronicity's cake. So on a metaphysical level, I recommend the vinyl, but on a practical level, I recommend the CD or MP3 version. If they could have stopped punching each other in the face, I really would like to see what they would have come up with next.

Such a dreamy song, even with its sinister lyrics. I remember being sick as a child, lying on the couch, fading in and out of waking, this video on the television.

1983 A&M
1. Synchronicity I 3:23
2. Walking in Your Footsteps 3:36
3. O My God 4:02
4. Mother 3:05
5. Miss Gradenko 2:00
6. Synchronicity II 5:00
7. Every Breath You Take 4:13
8. King of Pain 4:59
9. Wrapped Around Your Finger 5:13
10. Tea in the Sahara 4:11
11. Murder by Numbers (cassette and CD only) 4:36

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