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sue lawley, sue lawley...,
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This review is from: The Police (Audio CD)
The Police combined massive chart success with a pretty 'out there' sound, to an extent only the Beatles have excelled. Sometimes they seem to be almost all rhythm section - many of the riffs are on bass only, Copeland's drums tap restlessly away, and Andy Summers' guitar skips so lightly over the top you could almost miss it. There's Sting's voice, so familiar that it's easy to lose the sense of how shrill - more alto than tenor - and strange it is. And then there are the lyrics: often just as gloomy as Morrissey's, and just as blisteringly personal, only without his wit.
With all that, the success really is a tribute to the deceptively simple songwriting and arranging. The secret with the lyrics, I think, is that the generally downbeat verses are allied to catchy refrains with simple, striking imagery; you can sing along with the chorus without quite knowing what the song is about (turns out, for example, their first single was not really about Sue Lawley). They also made good use of the old-fashioned middle eight, which in many songs lightens the mood. It's clever stuff; Sting, mate, what happened to you?
They're not obviously virtuosic but, if you listen closely, the playing is quality too. Few have shown such development in such a comparatively short time. At the start, with studded leathers and thrashing guitars, they seemed to be trying to hide their sophistication behind a punk image. But even then, they were never really able to lower themselves to that Luddite, remedial level of rock; I remember arranging Roxanne for guitar as a teenager, and being disconcerted to find it had about 8 chords. Five years later, with things like Synchronicity and Walking In Your Footsteps, they were definitely the thinking man's global superstars. They're not going to go down in history with the Beatles et al, but they were the best of their generation and much better than anything since.
As Best-Ofs go, this is one of the finest I've seen for any band. There's not much in the way of bumff and fanclub photos, but it gives you the hits and a selection of album tracks that's hard to argue with. For me, these days, it's exactly the amount of Police I want.