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The Police were a great pop 'power-trio', Sting's superb distinctive voice and excellent songwriting, Andy Summer's unusually understated and artistic guitar style, and the muscularly energetic and immediately recognisable genius of Stewart Copland's drumming all combine to great effect.
The big hits on here are Don't Stand So Close To Me and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. The former is based on the Nabokov book Lolita (one wonders also if Sting ever found himself in this position when he was a teacher), and the latter, despite being memorably described by Alan Partridge as 'their gibberish classic', is really, lyrically, quite hard hitting ("their logic ties you up and rapes you"!).
This album earned the band two Grammys, one, quite understandably, for Don't Stand So Close To Me, and the other, more mystifyingly, for Andy Summers' Behind My Camel. The latter is just what - as Andy Summers may've wryly been implying - you'd expect to find behind a camel, a steaming pile of cack. Sting refused to play on it, and - legend has it - even went as far as literally burying the tape recording! Stewart Copeland's album-closing instrumental The Other Way Of Stopping is, to my ears, more deserving than Behind My Camel. But neither really merit a Grammy.
But Behind My Camel is, fortunately, the only outright duffer. Stewart Copeland's Bombs Away is good solid fun (and evokes the shady world of CIA involvement in exotic places that was his father's 9-5), whilst all Sting's songs are excellent, and some are superb: aside from the aforementioned hits this album ranges from the clattering ska-pop of Canary In A Coalmine to the vaguely sinister Voices Inside My Head and the downright spooky Shadows In The Rain, and from the spartan cyclic groove of When The World Is Running Down to the (appropriately) driving performance of Driven To Tears.
As a drummer I have to doff my cap to the awe-inspiring talents of the groups' founder and propulsive rhythmic driving force, Stewart Copeland. His playing and style are an inventive and exciting blending of a smorgasbord of tasty rhythmic titbits, gathered by a musical magpie of great intuitive intelligence. From the jazzy artistry of his highly expressive cymbal work, to the funky shotgun crack of his ultra-dry ultra-musical snare, or his phenomally offbeat and idiosyncratic fills (his use of octobans and splash cymbals is legendary and unsurpassed), he runs the whole gamut, distilling everything from prog-rock invention and bombast, to the energy of punk, and the minimalism of classic pop.
The Police were a short-lived group, and Zenyatta Mondatta marks the end of their more stripped down early period. Popular music has rarely been more intelligent and idiosyncratic whilst remaining so accessible and appealing. Unique music from a unique band, and essential listening, I'd argue.
I recently replaced my vinyl copy of this, and other Police albums, with CDs. It's just like a trip back in time. I spent the day playing each album, going "Oh yes, this is my favourite track", "Oh, no, *this* is my favourite...."
I BOUGHT THIS ALBUM ON CD A FEW YEARS AGO AFTER PREVIOUSLY OWING IT ON VINYL BACKI IN1980 WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG AND HAS BEEN WELL PLAYED SINCE 1980 SINCE I BOUGHT IT, I ALWAYS FOUND THIS ALBUM VERY PUNCHY AT TIMES BUT DON'T LIKE ALL THE TRACKS ON THIS CD, BUT NEVERLESS AS A 'DIE HARD' POLICE/STING FAN I HAD TO GET THE CD !!!!!!