REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/02/1999
For all that the Police were in many ways one of the quintessential bands of the early '80s (and for all of the reputation afterwards for its members), their recording career was brief as such things go. Only five years seperated the quasi-punk sound of Outlandos d'Amour and 1983's Synchronicity; soon after, the band split, each member moving to their own solo careers. Yet even 16 years later, Synchronicity is a powerful but flawed statement of the talents of Sting, Andy Summers, and Stuart Copeland.
Synchronicity isn't perfect. You can only hold three disparate talents together for so long, and the widely varying directions the three members have gone since the band's breakup only show that there must have been friction with a deep, underlying stylistic element. When Synchronicity doesn't work, it limps. When it does, it's a sharpened sonic scalpel, keen and dynamic.
Everyone who was listening to Top 40 radio in 1983 and 1984 remembers the singles. "Every Breath You Take" with its sinuous bass line, "Wrapped Around Your Finger"'s eerie keyboards and mystic themes, "King Of Pain" and Sting's hollow, Delphic vocals. Those were pretty good songs. Astonishingly enough, they still are; each one is as fresh as the first time I heard it on a static-filled FM radio in rural Illinois. Rolling Stone called this one of the best albums of the Eighties, and as much as I like to belittle that pompous publication, these singles were part of the reason.
But the real meat of the matter belongs to some songs that aren't as well known. "Synchronicity I" grabs you immediately, the siren-wailing of the intro sliding straight into an insistent melody that will not stop driving its way into your mind. "Oh My God" is one of the best pop songs the Police ever put together. "Murder By Numbers" is an astonishingly funny and astonishingly morbid blues-rock tune that's sadly underappreciated, in many ways a precursor to the excellent "Moon Over Bourbon Street" from Sting's first solo CD, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles.
My favorite, however, has to be "Synchronicity II", a dark, vicious, musically complex story of two seperate things coming together, two sundered events hurtling headlong towards a single dark point, the drums and guitars perfect. This is the scalpel's edge.
Then, of course, the blade breaks. "Mother" and "Miss Gradenko" merely serve to prove that Andy Summers and Stuart Copeland shouldn't have been allowed to write songs by themselves; the first is irritating and atonal, the second meandering and vague. "Tea In The Sahara" only serves to prove that Sting can pronounce the word 'Sahara', and I'm sure we were all worried about that.
Because these tracks are scattered through the CD, it means the album as a whole never manages to gain cohesion or momentum. As it is, Synchronicity is seven singles in search of an album; certainly points can be given for effort, and certainly it was good. It could have been better.
Synchronicity is a must for Police fans, '80s music completists, and people willing to overlook a few flaws. But I can't help wondering what it would have been like without them.