The evolution of the Police over their first three records is an effective case study of a talented band getting its wings. All three albums, from the quasi punk “Outlandos d’Amour,” the reggae dominated “Reggatta de Blanc,” and the punk/reggae/jazz pop fusion of “Zenyatta Mondatta” featured understated differences in influence and structure. While all held at least one memorable anthem, the lasting impression of each was a footprint cemented by stellar individual performances. In short, regardless of influence or the theme of the record, the exceptional musical talents of Andy Summers, Sting, and Stewart Copeland were featured at strategic moments, presenting each member an opportunity to showcase their respective virtuosic abilities. Aligning to this, a somewhat perplexing axiom is the Police, despite releasing two of their five albums in the 70’s and brandishing superior musical chops to the cavalcade of one-hit wonders permeating the Reagan era, will almost always be lumped into the overly generic genre of “80’s band.” Although new wave influenced, catchy anthems like “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “Message in a Bottle” contribute to this line of thinking, the easiest identifiable culprit are the groups final two albums, beginning with 1981’s “Ghost in the Machine.”
The lasting impression of “Ghost in the Machine” is defined by the presence of an overriding contemporary “80’s” sound. While the Police had flirted with this influence on past efforts, experimenting in flavors of Jazz and leaning toward pop sensibilities, “Ghost in the Machine” is plastered with the undeniable presence of saxophone and synthesizer, two quintessential weapons of the 80’s era the group had previously excluded. Perhaps ironically, “Ghost in the Machine” is a less pretentious endeavor, supplanting individual virtuosity with layers of poppy overdubs. There are notable exceptions, like Sting’s infectiously rollicking bass line in “Demolition Man” and Copeland’s ominous war drum in “Invisible Sun,” but the onus of the record is geared towards the overall atmosphere and catchiness of each individual track rather than focusing on the trenchant rhythms and standout guitar work of past efforts.
Despite the categorical changes, “Ghost in the Machine” is mostly an effective transition piece. Although there are noteworthy downfalls; the overly-done trio of “Too Much Information,” “Rehumanize Yourself,” and “One World” brandish large enough cheese factors to qualify as montages in really bad 80’s movies while “Omegaman” wastes exceptional verses with a below average chorus, the majority of the album features above average songwriting that compliments the new found focus well. “Invisible Sun” engages the synth effectively, and its haunting, layered echoes embrace the same sweeping atmosphere U2 would later ape on “War” and “The Unforgettable Fire.” “Hungry For You,” a massively catchy effort sung mostly in French, sounds like something Axel Foley would cruise around to on ‘Beverly Hills Cop,” while the aforementioned “Demolition Man” is one of Sting’s greatest bass performances. Album closers “Secret Journey” and “Darkness” provide an interesting study of lyrical duality, as while both have dreamy, synth laden atmospheres, the former is lyrically enlightening and uplifting, while the latter is morose and downtrodden, encompassing a gripping mood shift at the album’s close. Finally, the two most commercially memorable efforts, “Spirits in the Material World” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” are both reliant on Caribbean influences, the former riding a dark synth beat in place of traditional guitar led reggae rhythms, with the latter positively bursting with uplifting energy. Like every Police album, “Ghost in the Machine” contains a timeless anthem, and the gorgeous verses combined with the “Let’s go to Jamaica right now and party” chorus mood of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” ensure the dynamics of this streak will continue.
While the overall musicianship of the record may not match the virtuosity of past glories, the final verdict on “Ghost in the Machine” finds the Police continuing to evolve as songwriters. Many find the unbridled “80’s” influence as a step in the wrong direction, yet “Ghost in the Machine” proved the Police were smart enough to evolve with the times, emerging as leaders of the era thanks largely to stellar songwriting chops. Aside from the benefit of increased commercial viability, the greatest redemptive factor surrounding “Ghost in the Machine” is the experimentation and continued maturity embarked on would provide a gateway to their ultimate achievement. The Police were about to master the art of pop songwriting, and “Ghost in the Machine” was an essential foundation to the process.
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
Spirits in the Material World
Anyway, nice review. I like the Police, probably because i grew up listening to these albums, and they
still sound good to me. I prefer the first three albums to everything that came after though.
Synchronicity is dull to me
Thanks. yeah, I kind of grew up with it, I was only 3 when Synch came out but it was so huge it was played on the radio constantly even 5 years later, when I really started getting into music. It is more subdued, I will say that. That said, I am about to slobber over it in my next review.
whoa I was 20 when Synch came out, and as a drummer I was covering some 'Police' among others within a band or another. Good review Hans. My only let downs are 'Too Much Information' and 'Rehumanize Yourself'. 'One World' is one of my all time fave Police's song. ;(
80's music gets a bad rap, sometimes for good reason. I've been carrying its torch for awhile now though, and don't plan on stopping. Its a little easier now because at least people these days enjoy 80's music ironically, where as in the 90's you were almost a leper if you thought it was cool.
Heard Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (of course), but nothing apart from that. I'll probably check out some police, but right now I'm working on a laptop that isn't mine (read: I cannot play or get new music). Oh, and pos also.