Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You Want Something Corny? You Got It

Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: The Police, Regatta de Blanc. Somehow I managed to misremember the ascent of this great pop trio as a slow, R.E.M.-like climb from the fringe to the mainstream, but on a revisit to my favorite of their records, I was reminded of the obvious--that in fact this trans-Atlantic concern sounded like a supergroup from the start, producing five fantastically accomplished, thoroughly accessible records in the space of five years, like the Beatles on a tighter schedule.

I'd forgotten a few things about this, their second release: the weird chutzpah of Sting's world-music accent, which ebbs and flows roughly in proportion to how much like "reggae" a given song sounds (it's most egregious on "Bed's Too Big Without You"); how awful-yet-still-somehow-catchy the bad songs are ("It's All Right for You" and "Contact"); how relatively pretension-free the record is, which is one factor that did change as Sting's reading list got more extensive.

And though I wouldn't count this as something I'd forgotten, I'm always freshly awed by Andy Summers' resourceful, entirely un-ordinary guitar arrangements; while the tight, restless rhythm section and Sting's razory tenor have always held the foreground of the Police's sound, what Summers does in accompaniment, assiduously avoiding guitar-hero grandstanding or cliche, seems always in danger of being overlooked. I particularly love the Bo-Diddley-meets-Johnny-Marr clatter of the song above, as well as the high pizzicato-plucky sound he does on the breaks (an effect he revisited memorably on "King of Pain").

If there's a slightly impersonal, hit-making feeling about the work, even at this early stage, it's almost entirely made up for by the vigor and rigor of the playing. This was a band so good that they could have made a great instrumental side project if they'd chosen to. Pop music isn't always played this well, and often doesn't need to be, but when it is, it's a case of joy piled on joy--almost too much of a good thing. It's no wonder they didn't stay together long.

Tracy Young great album, great band, and great review! So fun to read your astute observations RWK!
Sean Williams YES. Andy Summers was the weirdest guitar player, and not in the same way that Copeland was a bizarre drummer. I saw an interview where Copeland said he intentionally avoided hitting the downbeat as often as possible, and that's just being sort of obtuse. Summers was crafting these really strange harmonic and rhythmic splatters.
Sean Williams And thanks for this post, I haven't thought about it in a few years.
Jennifer Gordon Thomas And to any new Police listeners out there reading this, just remember to stop when Sting starts playing the Lute.
Tom Salamon My favorite Police album. For further listening, check out the 'Bed's Too Big Without You' on the live disc from this era. Astounding.
Carey Fosse Fun fact: they each had their own Echoplex tape unit to manipulate during the show.

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