You Picked It! – The Police – ‘Synchronicity’ (1983) – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And here it is. The one you picked was The Police – ‘Synchronicity’.  The votes were as follows:

  1. The Police – ‘Synchronicity’ – 11 votes
  2. Patti Smith – ‘Horses’ – 7 votes
  3. The Struts – ‘Strange Days’ – 3 votes
  4. Lauryn Hill – ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ – 1 vote
  5. Prince – ‘Purple Rain’ – 0 votes (this surprised me)

And thanks to being on The LeBrain Train live stream a couple weeks back, we had 2 write-in votes for Tommy Lee’s ‘Andro’ based on my absolute disdain for this new album. The write-in votes are a first for this series and if there was enough votes, it technically could’ve won!!

Thanks to all for participating.  The November choices will be up on Saturday!

THE POLICE – ‘SYNCHRONICITY’:

It turns out, I wrote about this album some 3-4 years ago. I think I need to keep better notes. But, you guys voted for it anyway and therefore I will update my review where my thoughts might have changed or where I have better information.

My first album for The Police was ironically their last.  MTV had played their previous songs quite often and I loved “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”, but it wasn’t until “Synchronicity II” that I finally decided to actually buy one of their records.

I picked up the cassette for ‘Synchronicity’ back in 1983 and later I did pick up their entire collection on CD by buying their box set which had all their albums.  I have since sold all the previous copies and when I was out vinyl shopping several years back, I found ‘Synchronicity’ and snatched it up.  It cost $8 which was about the same price I probably paid for the cassette back in the ’80’s.

The Police were not an ordinary pop rock band.  For me, their lyrics were intelligent and not the bubble gum crap that was on the radio.  The songs made you think and look deeper into what they were saying.  At least they did for me.  It was the first time I felt music could be smart.

The album was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence. The title for the album and most of the songs inside were taken from the book. Sting was such a fan of Koestler’s that the album Ghost in the Machine also got its name from one of his works. The album also saw some changes in the band’s sound. They usually had a strong reggae influence in their sound and that was not very prevalent on the album. The band went in to a more of a “world music’ influence as they tried so many different sounds including a heavier reliance of synthesizers. Whatever they were doing, it worked on so many levels.

The album artwork was also spectacular. The use of the yellow, blue and red stripes with all the different photographs was so eye catching. In fact, they issued 36 different variations of this album with the colors and pictures in different order. Man, I would hate to have to search out all of those. The artwork was done by Jeff Ayeroff and Norman Moore and the photographs were taken by Duane Michals. I have to say it is a pretty sweet cover.

I mentioned the band went out on top with this album and hell, what band does that. The album was #1 on the US charts for around 17 weeks (not consecutively) and it unseated another massive album at the time, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The album won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and song of the year for “Every Breath You Take” and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Synchronicity II”. And if that wasn’t enough, it has sold well over 10 million copies worldwide. Not a bad way to go out.

SIDE 1:

With the opening track, “Synchronicity I”, you are blown away by the amount of music these 3 lads can produce.  It immediately grabs your attention and gets your feet stomping. Sting flies through the lyrics and it is hard to keep up.  Lyrics like…

“A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectable
Nothing is invincible”

He says them so fast, but you can understand every word he says.  At my age at the time, these were smart lyrics. I didn’t know what he was trying to say, but I didn’t care.  They sounded important.

The next track was “Walking In Your Footsteps” and I thought these guys are science freaks.  They are talking about dinosaurs.  Well, they were and they weren’t.  I took it as they were comparing our time on earth to the dinosaur and how we will be extinguished like they were.  We are currently God’s favorite, but that will someday change.

“O My God” slowly comes in with a heavy bass and drum beat and than Sting comes chiming in.  I loved how different  this song was from the others.  Actually, the whole album is nothing but variety.  The Police definitely like to change it up and that is what makes this album so special.  It’s uniqueness especially from what else was out there in the music scene at the time.

The only song written by Andy Summers is the strange and marvelous “Mother”.   He also sings on this one (or screams, whichever way you want to look at it). Whenever the phone would ring in the house, I would scream out “The Telephone is ringing, Is that My Mother On the Phone”.  I still do that today and my kids look at me like I am nuts (except now it is a cellphone).  It is by far, the most bizarre song and I love it.

“Miss Gradenko” feels like a Cold War era love song about forbidden love in the Kremlin.  The song was written by Stewart Copeland and it is quite possible that is what the song is about as his dad worked for the CIA.  I read that online somewhere, so it must be true.

The final song on Side One was “Synchronicity II” and the reason I bought the album.  This was, and still is, one of the coolest songs I have ever heard.  It is the most rocking song on the album and Sting sounds amazing.  Musically, there is so much going on and so many unique sounds that I feel I discover something new each time I listen.  Are you sure there only 3 guys playing? The song is based off Carl Jung’s theory of Synchronicity and Sting told Time Magazine “Jung believed there was a large pattern to life, that it wasn’t just chaos. Our song Synchronicity II is about two parallel events that aren’t connected logically or causally, but symbolically.” Again, another smart song. I thought these guys were geniuses!! And it almost was too intimidating for me to listen to.

SIDE 2:

Side Two kicks off with the most misinterpreted Love Song of all time…“Every Breath You Take”.  So many people would dedicate this song to their girlfriend/boyfriend as a love song and not realize it is a rather creepy, disturbing song.  Nowadays people get arrested for this kind of stuff.  “Every Breath You Take” is a pure Stalker song.  The person behind this song probably could be the poster boy for domestic violence and would make singer Chris Brown look like a saint.  Regardless, it is a fantastic and beautiful song.

Another big hit and one of my favorites is “King of Pain”.  I like how it starts off a little slower and darker and then kicks in to a more rocking beat.  Another song that is lyrically amazing with all the different analogies he is using and that I wouldn’t think would work together in a song, but mesh nicely together.  It is so dark without coming off as depressing which is the magic of the song. Sting wrote it and was inspired by his break up with his then wife at the time.

“Wrapped Around Your Finger” was so above my head lyrically.  I didn’t understand half the words that were coming out of Sting’s mouth.  “Scylia”, “Charibdes”, “Mephistopheles”.  At 14 or so, I was like WTF???  Now I know that the first two are references to Greek Mythology and the last is another name for the Devil.  The song is about being under the control of another person and is another reason I feel they were so intelligent songwriters. Sting is one of the greatest songwriters…enough said!!

The last song on the album is “Tea in the Sahara”.  At the time, it was my least favorite song on the album.  It is still not one of my favorites, but wonderful all the same.  I hadn’t been able to figure this song out and what it means. And this is actually another song inspired by a book. Man these guys are well-read. The book was Paul Bowles’s “The Sheltering Sky” and the first part of the book is actually called Tea in the Sahara and is about 3 women waiting in the desert for the prince to have tea with them…uh…okay.

‘Synchronicity’ will always be one of my favorite albums.  It still holds up today some 37 years later.  Even listening to it on repeat while writing this post, I don’t ever grow tired of it. I will give it a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I don’t find much of anything wrong with this one. I hope you give it a listen if you haven’t heard it before. If you have heard it before, spin it again.  The Police broke up shortly after this album as they wanted to go out on top, which they did.  I hate the fact I never got to see them perform live.  I will keep them on my wish list in case they do.

23 thoughts on “You Picked It! – The Police – ‘Synchronicity’ (1983) – Album Review

  1. I’m not huge on ‘Mother’, although it’s cool to see a song in 7/4. I’ve come round on ‘Miss Gradenko’, but it’s generally a record with a much stronger second half. ‘Regatta de Blanc’ is my favourite Police record.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can understand on Mother, it is not the most welcoming song. And you are not alone on Reggatta as I think Regatta is a lot of people’s favorites. I have a Police album ranking coming and I am not sure you will like my order.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Synchronicity is my second favourite – I think they’re all a bit inconsistent though. Like Sting had a run of great singles in The Police but not quite enough great songs to fill out strong albums consistently.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As you said John this album was our starting point and it was the end of the band. Great album and perhaps the first band back in the day to break up when they were on top!!
    Who does that?? The Police did.
    Wicked review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Outstanding album. My favourite of all time and near perfect. A few changes that should’ve been made:

    1. Mother does not belong on the album. It should’ve been a B-side for Synchronicity II.
    2. The album should kick off with Synchronicity I and II. That would’ve been a killer opening.
    3. The first side should have ended with Murder by Numbers. It’s too good to be a ‘bonus track’ that it was on the casette/CD versions. If they’d made those changes the first side would’ve been immeasurably better.
    4. Side two stays exactly the same. If a ‘bonus track’ is required, they could’ve added in Once Upon a Daydream. This was done during the Synchronicity sessions and left off. It’s killer and would’ve been great to end the album with.

    Regardless of the tweaks I would’ve made, it’s an insanely good album. Every Breath You Take is the most played song of all time and might not even be the album’s best track. It’s packed with amazing classics and i don’t think there’s an album in existence that can match side two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree on Murder, really good track. And yes, EBYT is the most played, but not the best song on the album. I never tire of Synchronicity II so that is the best one for me. But arguments can be made of others too.

      Like

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