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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Police, "Synchronicity"

The Police
A&M (1983)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die + 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die

There are a number of things that prevent good, reputable bands from getting the attention they deserve. Among those that affect The Police is for one, that everyone's mom has a crush on vocalist/bassist Sting. Hot members always serve as a temporary blinder to the musical ability of a group (Guitarist Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland aren't too bad either). Also, repetition of hit singles, such as "Every Breath You Take," make people forget about how intelligent tracks really are. "Synchronicity" featured the band at its apex of creativity, and no matter how many times you've heard these tracks, it's worth another listen. "Synchronicity" proves that The Police deserves a progressive rock classification.

Throughout The Police's career, the group was recognized for its reggae-based sound. Summers liked to work in skank riffs, and the laid-back way in which Sting delivers his vocals added to the mood. The band was less-recognized for its clever ("Message In A Bottle") or edgy ("Roxanne") lyrics because of the band's popularity and because Sting just sounded like such a nice boy. On "Synchronicity," the group got away from the chill vibe. "Mother" features Summers handling the vocals, carrying on like a crazy while the band plays an eerie circus-theme. "Tea in The Sahara" is an ambient flash-forward to Sting's solo hit "Desert Rose," and "Murder By The Numbers" pushes the envelope of radio-friendly, taking a no-big-deal approach to serial killing, with backing cool jazz piano.

Those might be among the less popular tracks on the album, but the singles do equal justice to the band's songwriting skills. "Synchronicity II" explores the title-theory proposed by Carl Jung, that seemingly incidental occurrences cause unrelated incidents. In this case, it may sound ridiculous to correlate a bad day at work with the Loch Ness Monster rising, but those who understand the concept behind the title get what's going on. Also note how Summers' playing gets darker and darker as the song progresses, and as disaster approaches. "King of Pain" takes nearly two minutes before the guitar enters, and plays around with pace, delivering a dark message that's still catchy enough to be a hit.

Speaking of hits that are way scarier than they sound, the classic "Every Breath You Take" is the end all. Take a gentle riff, Sting's soothing voice, and you've got the chart-topping ballad. Until you listen to the lyrics. Then you've got a chart-topping song about an obsessive, possibly dangerous stalker. This, along with "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones, is case-and-point for describing the ignorance of the pop listener. Not a bad song at all, but a laugh that thousands have had their first wedding dance to this.

The Police were one of the few bands to end on a high note. Sting and Copeland were already getting into physical altercations by the time the recording of "Synchronicity" was finished, and the band called it quits without doing another album. A little rough for fans, considering it seemed the band had hit full stride with this last album, but compared to many worn out acts, sometimes it's better to go out on top.

INTERESTING FACT: Sting's publisher told The Word magazine that "Every Breath You Take" generates a quarter to a third of the musician's publishing income every year.

King of Pain by The Police on Grooveshark

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