Outlandos D'Amour

The Police

A&M, 1978


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally published in On The Town magazine on 1/21/97]

One of the sadder thoughts I've had in recent years is that there are millions of young adults today who probably think of Sting as that simultaneously pompous and lounge-lizardy ballad singer frequently spotted hanging around the fringes of Bryan Adams music videos. Talk about a comedown.

Not that I'd knock everything the King Bee himself has come up with since The Police prematurely busted themselves back around 1984; some of it has been inventive and classy in its own limited adult-contemporary way, especially when Branford Marsalis was on board. But once upon a time this guy was a third of one of the most talented trios ever to emerge from the London club scene, a group that started out by virtually inventing its own genre – reggae-punk -- and whose musical vision only grew from there.   my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Outlandos D’Amour brims with manic punk attitude even as it explores a wash of international styles, from the pounding power-pop of "Next to You" to the alternately winsome and driving reggae rhythms of "So Lonely" and the classic "Roxanne." The extraordinary energy level generated by Andy Summers on guitar, Stewart Copeland on drums, and Sting (a.k.a. Gordon Sumner) on bass made every number on this debut disc fire on all cylinders, peaking three-fourths of the way through with the hard-rocking yet melodically rich "Truth Hits Everybody" and "Born in the '50s."

The Police’s initial approach was a strange contradiction; they adopted a punk attitude because it was the only way to get booked into London clubs in 1978.  Yet the music, for all the primitive fury of tracks like “Truth,” was already more subtle and sophisticated than ninety percent of the group’s contemporaries.  While Sting and Copeland were young bucks looking for their first big break, Summers was a years-older industry veteran who’d played bars with Clapton and Hendrix a decade earlier before taking a break to study classical guitar.  All three shared an expansive view of music and an affection for jazz.

Viewed in hindsight, maybe the most surprising aspect of this album is the off-center sense of humor these guys displayed (the loss of which drained a lot of the life out of their later albums, if you ask me). Check out the aggressively pathetic whine of "Can't Stand Losing You," the furiously alliterative psycho-babble of "Peanuts" and the blissfully bizarre inflatable love story of "Be My Girl/Sally."  There is none of the pomposity or pretense of albums like Synchronicity here; just sweat and adrenalin and no small measure of joy.

If anything would make the ludicrous prices being fetched for Police reunion tour tickets worth it, it would be the chance to see the old lounge lizard try to pull off a few of these tunes today.  Not sure he’s still got it in him, but if so, good on ya, Gordon.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A&M, and is used for informational purposes only.