Wednesday, 6 June 2018
The Police - Outlandos D'Amour (1978)
Released November 1978
Recorded at Surrey Sound Studios
In 1978, the punk/reggae crossover was at its height - The Clash, The Slits, The Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers all played their own brand of white reggae and reggae was respected by the punks (who respected few other genres, apart from maybe rockabilly) and the rude boys tended to have time for the punks. It was a fine marriage. White reggae was what The Police specialised in at the outset of their career although their "rude"credibility was pretty low. They were not West London squat veterans like The Clash, oiks like The Ruts, tough girls like The Slits or from the mean streets of Belfast like Stiff Little Fingers. Instead they were an ex-teacher, a (comparatively) old guitar veteran in Andy Summers and an American diplomat's son, Stewart Copeland. Remarkably they "crossed over" more than any of the others and became the biggest band in the country for a short while, conquering the charts and winning over the "non punk" chart buying public, including lots of girls who fancied the charismatic front man Gordon Sumner aka "Sting".
They suffered from this credibility problem and also from a notion that they were "up themselves". This is somewhat unfair, particularly at the beginning. This is a good debut album.
The rapid-fire blast of the punky "Next To You" starts things off and then we get two great hit singles, - the reggae meets rock chorus of the irresistible "So Lonely" and the now iconic "Roxanne" with its captivating Sting vocal and sparse backing from Summers and Copeland. "Hole In My Life" has some dub reggae ambience to it in parts, again, merged nicely with a rock style riff. The Police, as a three man band, were tight as a gnat's chuff. The Jam had more attack and, at times, much more subtlety, and are by far my preferred three man outfit, but The Police could play, make no mistake.
On this album, the pressure to be punky as opposed to too much white reggae seemed to dominate. Quite a few tracks, such as "Peanuts" are played at the requisite breakneck speed, as if to prove they were punks. Joe Jackson's first album featured similar type tracks. Like Jackson, "Peanuts" hard parts in it that betrayed a musical talent far beyond your average punk band. However, this album remained their "punk" album. The follow-up, "Regatta De Blanc" would be far more reggae-influenced.
"Can't Stand Losing You" was another hit single, probably the most "reggae" of the three, with a dubby backing before the rock chorus kicked in. "Truth Hits Everybody" was another upbeat punker, as was the rousing, anthemic "Born In The 50s".
The less said about Andy Summers' "Be My Girl - Sally" the better. His spoken part delivered to a blow-up sex doll is embarrassing. Better stick to Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home A Heartache" for this type of subject matter. The rock bits in the song are good, though, but all too brief. "Masoko Tanga" is an interesting five-minute closer - reggae rhythms, a driving beat and some incomprehensible lyrics. Having said that, it is no classic, and the final two tracks are nowhere near as good as what went before. The album does tend to fade away a bit, after a great start.
November 1978 saw the release of this album, The Clash's "Give "Em Enough Rope", The Jam's "All Mod Cons" and Siouxsie & The Banshees' "The Scream". What a month.