Review Summary: Synchronicity is one of the greatest albums of its era, showing The Police’s talent and versatility alongside Sting’s great lyrics and uncanny ability to create catchy songs.
The Police wander further away from their original reggae rock style and into new wave and world music with their final and most polished album, Synchronicity
. Released in 1983, Sting continued to exercise his authority over the band and its music during the recording of Synchronicity
, and the band had to resort to recording separately and in different rooms for “social reasons,” as producer Hugh Padgham put it. Despite the high tension in the band they managed to produce their most successful album, as Synchronicity
sold over 8 million copies in the US alone and had chart-topping singles “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain,” and “Synchronicity II.” Sting’s superb songwriting is on display on The Police’s last album and Andy Summers’ guitar makes a comeback, finding a delicate balance with the moody synths of the 1980’s.
The first side of Synchronicity
is bookended by the tracks “Synchronicity I” and “Synchronicity II.” Sting was a huge fan of author Arthur Koestler, naming the album after the theory of synchronicity that Koestler wrote about and Carl Jung expanded on. The previous Police album Ghost in the Machine
is also named after a Koestler book. “Synchronicity I” starts the album off with a bang with a repeating synthesizer line followed by thundering drums from Stewart Copeland. Andy Summers’ guitar is almost entirely drowned out by the cacophony of keyboards, bass, drums, horns, and vocals on this energetic opener.
“Synchronicity II” is one of the best songs Sting ever wrote. The single became an anthem for suburban life as Sting uses the concept of synchronicity to tell the tale of a man going insane from a bleak existence while a monster emerges from a Scottish loch “many miles away.” “Synchronicity II” is an example of the superb blend of synthesizers and the original three instruments that The Police were able to achieve on a few occasions. Andy Summers’ guitar finally plays the melody on a song he did not write, and the result is a shining example of new wave music and one of The Police’s best songs.
The second song “Walking In Your Footsteps” showcases The Police’s experimentation with world music. The song uses African drums and pan flute to create the feeling of a tribal tune while Sting addresses a doomed dinosaur from 50 million years ago. Sting creates a parallel between the natural disaster that killed off the dinosaurs and the possibility of human extinction by our own explosive means. He says to the brontosaurus:
“You were built three stories high
They say you would not hurt a fly
If we explode the atom bomb
Would they say that we were dumb"”
is not totally void of the protest songs that were prevalent on Ghost in the Machine
, but the message is significantly toned down for The Police’s last album.
“Walking In Your Footsteps” is followed by the jazzy “O My God.” The saxophone on this song played by Sting is a great addition to the spacey synthesizers, funky bass, and Summers’ classic echoic guitar. The Police show great variety in the first three songs on this album, refusing to be placed into a genre box and instead forging ahead with their own unique style.
The next two songs are the only compositions not by Sting on Synchronicity
. “Mother” by Andy Summers is full of chaotic energy while Summers wails “the telephone is ringing, is that my mother on the phone"” over and over and screams at the end. This song makes the listener question Summers’ sanity, but it could just be his attempt at releasing his frustration with Sting. “Mother” makes the listener uncomfortable and is easily the worst song on the album and perhaps the worst song The Police ever released.
The distressing “Mother” is followed up by the jumpy “Miss Gradenko” written by Stewart Copeland. This short song has a catchy chorus with an excellent finger picked guitar riff from Summers, groovy bass from Sting, and tight drumming from Copeland. If “Mother” is the worst song Andy Summers wrote for the band, then “Miss Gradenko” is the best song that Stewart Copeland gave to The Police.
The second side of the album starts with the smash hit single “Every Breath You Take.” The instantly famous guitar riff is very catchy and Sting sings his heart out from the perspective of a stalker to the object of his affection. The song is quite creepy as Sting sings “Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you” but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the band’s most successful singles, going multi-platinum and winning two Grammies for Best Pop Performance and Song of the Year. The song can get very annoying after hearing it far too many times, but it remains one of the emblematic songs of the 1980’s.
Sting continues writing love songs on the second half of Synchronicity
with “King of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” Both are classic tunes with lyrics of pained love that Sting had become famous for. Both songs are accompanied by moody synth parts with strong choruses, as Sting really found his formula for creating hit songs on Synchronicity
. “Tea in the Sahara” also follows along this trend with dark synthesizers and lots of post-produced effects. The last track “Murder By Numbers” is a laid back tune led by a jazzy guitar melody and features fabulous drums from Copeland that make the song reminiscent of 1970’s Police. It is a hidden gem in The Police discography and one that shows the great balance the band had achieved in their genre-bending style.
is one of the greatest albums of its era, showing The Police’s talent and versatility alongside Sting’s great lyrics and uncanny ability to create catchy songs. Every song with the exception of Andy Summers’ incomprehensible “Mother” is catchy and well produced. The Police were named “the biggest band in the world” after the release and subsequent world tour for Synchronicity
, but that hype was short-lived because this was the last album The Police would ever release. The turmoil within the band proved to be too much and they went on hiatus after their tour and broke up soon after. Nevertheless, Synchronicity
is an excellent last effort from a band that was one of the most popular in the world during their short tenure, and it remains one of the best albums of the decade.