The Rhythmic Police
Over the course of the semester we’ve learned a good deal about how emerging technologies and changes to the mechanics of songs had a great deal of influence into the type of music that was produced. Often by accident, damage or wear would happen to a piece of sound equipment that would cause distortion and the way electronic equipment factored into musical production would be a growing element over time – to the point where singing would become irrelevant to moving forward in a career. Music could be tracked and sampled, thrown through a grater to mine out the original material. One of the appealing elements of bands and music of yore that’s given it increase in nostalgic view is the naturalness of sound. One band that thrived for a time on a natural, raw, powerful sound was that of The Police. English born and bred, they gathered popularity in the states at a time when tastes were scattered. Some preferred break-heavy disco music and others gathered to untrained singers of punk bands, with a loud, pulsating, thrashing sound.
In an awkward bridge between the late 1970s and early 80s, music was dividing, diverging, and clear dominating forces weren’t as present until more time went by to define how tastes competed with one another. One of the strengths of the band was to cater to different ears, playing to the punk genre, starting out with that reputation and incorporating New Wave elements and Reggae. The Police used a semi-translation of “white reggae” in their debut album of Reggata d’Blanc. The polyrhythmic structure and the slowed tempo of “Bed’s Too Big Without You” made it more akin to Marley’s experimentation with a slower tempo of reggae, a Rastafarian take for an English band. Three English men with whitish blonde hair dared to tool around with a genre from the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.
Sting, as the lead vocalist could use the intense range of his music to mix well with the beat and tune of their songs that incorporated these elements of hardcore rock. The most defining aspect was that he was more trained than a long-haired, shirtless, ball of angst on stage semi-screaming about the rebellion in life – his voice and the backing of Copeland, Myles, and Padovani – would come together in a wonderful fusion in a song they’ve been trademarked for. “Roxanne” exhibited an unstressed, in tune, story about a woman and a man’s propriety over her in an otherwise hardcore setting for the genre they had pushed themselves into in England. It’s the exhibitor of the untempered harmony of the band as they came together and the channel of the talent of their instrumentation and how they could come together in a beautiful way.
And to say all of this, to say that they were punk but anti-punk in certain regards is not to admit that they were better or beyond the synthesizer heavy music of the ensuing decade. The Police certainly felt room enough to expand and explore with different sounds and putting them into the music. It was a very original birth in the latter part of the 70s, out of a punk motif and just a need to play instruments, sing and not do too much else, to a new need to acclimate to a new sound. Compare “Roxanne”, compare “Bed’s Too Big Without You” to their later work and find a definite post-punk sound, songs that would be harder to play in concert than a basic drawing in of instrumentals and vocals.
Towards the end of the band’s production, with hits like this and “Synchronicity” (the namesake of the band’s final album) there’s a growth and with that there’s an appeal to the name and to the gentlemen. They can come in softly, they can come in fast and hard, but the undercurrent is always a confident vocal and a message about love or in the case of “Synchronicity” – it’s a rebellion, more appealing to the roots and the music scene that they came out of. They were popularized during the transition they made from the base elements and their first experiments to the point in time where their catalogue grew more consistent. They were easier to identify because they had more of a catalogue – and for a band post-beatles they produced a fair share of hits. These guys are playing in an England that’s under the thumb of this hated Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and it’s a decade and time wherein industry and financial growth subverts environmental and social causes that don’t hold as much importance. This track shows the volume of sound, the range of sound that three guys can produce and a raw message about the daily complacency we have in the factory-ridden environment.