The Police
Zenyatta Mondatta


4.5
superb

Review

by tomahawk37 USER (9 Reviews)
January 12th, 2017 | 14 replies


Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Zenyatta Mondatta is The Police’s first and finest album of the 1980’s, and showcases a near-perfect mix of reggae, punk rock, and now synthesizers in the new wave era that made The Police famous.

The Police entered a new decade with the release of their third album Zenyatta Mondatta in 1980. This album proved to be a pivotal point in the career of The Police, because it represents the shift towards more electronic music from the band and the start of politically charged lyrics from Sting. Zenyatta Mondatta is the bridge between the light and fun reggae/punk rock style of The Police’s first two albums and the darker moody electronic style of their last two albums. This makes it seem to be the most overlooked album in the catalogue of The Police, but it is in fact a hidden gem that stands just as tall as any of the band’s other records.

Zenyatta Mondatta starts off with the hit single “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” about a teacher and his illicit affair with one of his students. From the first synthesizer chord at the beginning of the song the listener can tell that this is a Police album different from the previous two. The deep brooding mood is immediately set within the first few seconds until it is lifted by the bright guitar in the chorus. Andy Summers also uses a guitar synthesizer for his ethereal sounding solo on the song that proves that The Police know how to blend the new technology well with their unique style of reggae rock. “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” won the 1981 Grammy for Best Rock Performance and was a smash success for the band, reaching number one on the charts in multiple countries.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is followed by the duo of “Driven To Tears” and “When the World Is Running Down.” “Driven To Tears” is one of Sting’s earliest and best protest songs, painting a picture of a world divided between rich and poor. Sting came up with the song after he was emotionally struck by a TV program showing starving children, and writes about his disgust with the lyrics:

“Hide my face in my hands, shame wells in my throat
My comfortable existence is reduced to a shallow meaningless party
Seems that when some innocent die
All we can offer them is a page in some magazine
Too many cameras and not enough food
‘Cause this is what we’ve seen.”

Sting sings this while playing a driving bass line overtop Stewart Copeland’s impeccable drumming, and Andy Summers accentuates Sting’s lyrics with sharp guitar chords delivered after every second line. “When The World Is Running Down” picks up right where “Driven to Tears” ends, with a sudden change to a heady groove with sparse bass and drums and reverb-heavy guitar. Sting sings about living in a post-apocalyptic world with all his favourite things intact in another jab at the selfish rich folk who care little for anything outside themselves.

Zenyatta Mondatta does still have some light and fun songs like “Canary In A Coalmine,” “Man In A Suitcase,” and the single “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” The latter is actually about people’s attraction to overly simple songs, as Sting himself said: “The lyrics are about banality, about the abuse of words,” but that “the lyrics have an internal logic.” Nevertheless in Sting’s attempt to criticize simplicity in music he wrote a simple song that is extremely catchy and quite successful, also reaching number one on the charts.

True to the form of their previous two albums, The Police recorded Zenyatta Mondatta in very little time, finishing it the night before they went on a world tour. As a result, Zenyatta Mondatta has three instrumental tracks, “Voices Inside My Head,” “Behind My Camel,” and “The Other Way of Stopping.” “Voices Inside My Head” is not exactly an instrumental since it includes a two line chant repeated throughout the song, but the focus is entirely on the music. The Police effortlessly create a slick groove combining Stewart Copeland’s tight drumming that includes subtle yet brilliant rhythmic breaks, Sting’s heavy and popping bass line, and Summers’ signature feedback delayed guitar. “Voices Inside My Head” is perhaps the best instrumental The Police ever recorded, but it is overshadowed by the Grammy-winning “Behind My Camel.”

Zenyatta Mondatta also represents the first signs of tension within the band. Sting flat-out refused to play on Summers’ composition “Behind My Camel,” forcing Summers to play bass on the track. The result is a lethargic and repetitive song void of any feeling and not very pleasing to the ears. It is indeed surprising that “Behind My Camel” actually won the 1981 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, especially since it was nominated alongside Rush’s exemplary “YYZ” but that argument is beyond the scope of this review. The last instrumental “The Other Way Of Stopping” is also quite repetitive and not very exciting; it feels like it may have been rushed as a song to get onto the album to meet time requirements.

Overall, these few dissonant songs don’t detract from the entire album, as there are only about three of the eleven songs that aren’t incredible. Zenyatta Mondatta is full of head bobbing grooves with superb instrumentation and thought-provoking lyrics. Zenyatta Mondatta is The Police’s first and finest album of the 1980’s, and showcases a near-perfect mix of reggae, punk rock, and now synthesizers in the new wave era that made The Police famous.

4.5/5



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Asdfp277
January 12th 2017


16134 Comments


isn't this a overgatch character

danielcardoso
Contributing Reviewer
January 12th 2017


11569 Comments


Close lol.

Divaman
January 12th 2017


1598 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, but you've got me fascinated to see if you review "Synchronicity" to see what you don't like about it or why you feel it's inferior to this one and "Regatta de Blanc".

Digging: Neil Cavanagh - City of the Sun, Valley of the Moon

TwigTW
January 12th 2017


2856 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'Roxanne' was a hit single in the US, but this is the band's breakout album in America. Pop was always a part of the police's punk/reggae mix, but it's more pronounced on this one. I can't say it's my favorite, but it is a great transition album from Reggatta de Blanc to Ghost In The Machine.

Digging: Exquirla - Para Quienes An Viven

neekafat
January 12th 2017


6865 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not badly written, but it feels super objective and half of it is stating facts about the music than about why it's great.

Also, don't understand all the hubbub about this one, it's my least favorite Police album

Sabrutin
January 12th 2017


4622 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It looks fine to me, it mentions the band's proficiency while focusing on their evolution. Though I can see where neekafat is coming from, Reggatta's review has a slicker flow. Though I give you props for the importance given to lyrics -an underrated aspect of music in general if you ask me- and to the band's story, I do it too on discography reviews. Pos



This one's a very relaxed listen, I like it (let's be real, how can you dislike an album produced so well?) but definitely not as much as Reggatta's emotive tension or Outlandos' energetic "youthful" aesthetic. And I have to be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of De Do Do Do.

tomahawk37
January 12th 2017


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Divaman: I'm doing all the Police albums! That will be the last one. I know everybody loves it but it might actually be my least favourite Police album, but that's not saying much since I really like all the Police albums lol

Jethro42
January 12th 2017


15141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This and Regatta de Blanc are the first Police albums that I've listened to non stop when they came out, so they have a sentimental value. ''Voices Inside My Head'' is such a groovy song. I also love very much ''Driven to Tears''. What a musicianship in that one. So tight!.. Every songs except the last one are worth a serious listen. And I personally like the dark and poignant ''Behind My Camel''

Nice review and good rating once again.

tomahawk37
January 12th 2017


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Jethro! "Voices Inside My Head" is awesome, I never get tired of it.

Divaman
January 12th 2017


1598 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll be looking forward to what you have to say about it Tomahawk. I've gone the other way - a few years ago, I'd have said "Zenyatta Mondatta" was my favorite Police album, but "Synchronicity" has gradually grown past it for me. But I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

FullOfSounds
January 12th 2017


15618 Comments


http://www.sputnikmusic.com/images/albums/4183.jpg
http://www.sputnikmusic.com/images/albums/196240.jpg

Digging: Hannah Diamond - Pink and Blue

neekafat
January 13th 2017


6865 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^Fair

TheIntruder
January 13th 2017


310 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice album too. Perhaps a transition album with a hit single Roxane. But I'm not a great fan of De Do Do Do too.

neekafat
January 13th 2017


6865 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah the singles from this are eh



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