Review Summary: Although unfocused at times, an overall solid, memorable debut. Oh yeah, "ROXXXXXXXXXXXXXANNNNNNNNNNNE!"
The Police Discography
Part 1: Outlandos d'Amour - The Landmark Debut
The Police are a rare band in the annals of rock, and in particular the era in which they excelled. Like many of their brethren from the New Wave era, the Police wrote enormously catchy songs, sold truckloads of records, and were staples of MTV and modern rock radio. Although the works of many of their musical contemporaries are still enjoyed today, it is often achieved in a mocking, ironic, or nostalgic fashion. The Police, despite existing in an era of one or two hit wonders, have always generated a heightened sense of credibility, and there is little doubt their works are highly revered inside the genre. Aside from the presence of a gregarious, superstar frontman and enhanced songwriting chops, the driving force behind the Police’s enhanced credibility is their above average, if not stellar musicianship. All highly trained classical jazz musicians, The Police infused complex layers of punk, reggae, and jazz that legitimized the backbone of their poppy New Wave delivery, capped by the masterful drumming of Stewart Copeland, the atmospheric fret work of Andy Summers, and the steadfast foundation of Sting’s bass playing. Over the course of their career, the band would evolve exponentially from a musical standpoint, adding layers of complexity, enhanced experimentation, heightened melodic sensibilities, and perhaps most famously, an undeniable advent of pretentiousness.
Their career was auspicious yet short, but the musical foundations encapsulating their debut, “Outlandos d'Amour” would prove The Police needed little practice to reach the height of musical legitimacy. “Outlandos d’Amour” is notably the group’s most basic, straightforward album, yet it contains varying elements of experimentation, brandishing a beautiful collision of punk, jazz, and reggae that fared well when combined with melodic hooks and memorable choruses. The overall tone of the album feels complex and purposefully restrained at the same time. There exists both a raw earnestness and advanced musical IQ on the record, or more abruptly, you can tell from listening that each musician has advanced capabilities, albeit somewhat leashed, a fortunate aspect in “Outlandos d’Amour” is at its best when the songs are delivered at a more narrow scope.
Although The Police had the capability of achieving epic atmospheres, and would accomplish this on later albums, the standouts from their debut are centered towards the more aggressive, straight forward numbers. The chugging, punkish catchiness that permeates “Next to You” is far more effective than the pretentiously performed “Masoko Tanga,” a track that while containing an impressive bass performance cannot stand tall amid its misguided structure. When the memorable, reggae laced “So Lonely” rides a gargantuan hook into its chorus, the listener is far more pleased than when “Be My Girl Sally” showcases spoken lyrics about a blow up doll over an exceedingly lame jazz backdrop. “Hole in My Life” features a forceful, layered synth that invokes the feeling of walking around alone in a big city at night, but its length and repetitiveness fall far short of the infectiously strong punk undertones of “Peanuts,” a track where Copeland simply dominates with formidable drum work. The nostalgic “Born in the 50’s” is another attempt at being epic, right down to its Roger Daltry aping vocals and “we’re trying really hard to sound like The Who” atmosphere, but falls far short of the driving, energetic anthem “Truth Hits Everybody,” an underrated classic of their catalog.
The overwhelming notion that The Police are far more effective at keeping things simple, at least on this album, is further driven home by the existence of its two most memorable moments, the uber single “Roxanne” and lyrically dark, striking “Can’t Stand Losing You.” Both tracks are built on reggae undertones, and at times are mirror images in song structure, complete with jumpy verses and driving, repetitive choruses. “Roxanne” is an effective study in the foundation of the Police; experimental flavors of music meet focused, anthemic songwriting. Although it is peculiar that a self described master of Tantra like Sting would ever need to check out prostitutes in a red light district, the bursting, energetic flavor of “Roxanne” would prove to be the album’s highlight, and the ultimate force that launched them into the limelight.
On the whole, “Outlandos d’Amour” is a solid, at times exceptional debut. Although the last quarter of the record is devoid of any redeeming factor and contains one of the worst songs ever written in “Be My Girl Sally,” the majority is packed with memorable, energetic songs that merely prescribed what The Police were capable of. Sting’s ego would grow exponentially along with his songwriting chops on later albums, but the overall lasting impressions from “Outlandos d’Amour” are a young band with above average talent capturing a raw innocence. Although it is not their most impactful or lasting recording, “Outlandos d’Amour” stands today as one of the era’s standouts, and would provide a substantial stepping stone for a band on the cusp of greatness.
Can’t Stand Losing You
Truth Hits Everybody
Next To You