I hadn’t heard this album in a very long while before yesterday. In fact, I hadn’t really listened to the Police in some time. But I had “Wrapped Around My Finger” pop into my head from nowhere and this gave me a hankering to revisit the album; to see if I would find it stood the test of time or whether, like a lot of 80s music frankly, it seemed a little dated and gauche.
When I think of 80s music, “Synchronicity” looms large. By “80s music” I should specify what I mean here: the music of the decade that I remember somewhat fondly and that fills me some measure of nostalgia, not I’d like to stress, what was representative of what the vast majority of pop music in the 80s actually sounded like. Most of mainstream radio in the 1980s was a joyless sea of horrifically awful ballads which have thankfully mostly been lost to the sands of time.
Even more than “Thriller”, the Police’s final album seemed to rise above all of the usual filler, both artistically and commercially, being one of the most successful records of the period. So, what did I find upon rediscovery?
It’s more eclectic than I recall, with “Mother” smacking you in the face in a similar way that “Within You Without You” throws you out of “Sgt Pepper” a bit; a shock to the the system that somehow works. It was filled with more stuff that I’d forgotten about (and was pleasantly reminded of) than expected: the “is anybody alive in here?/Is anybody at all in here?/Nobody but us in here/Nobody but us” refrain from “Miss Gradenko” that if you’d asked me the origin of a couple of days ago, I wouldn’t have been able to quite locate but is nevertheless vividly recalled from my 80s youth; how prog the album is, with “Synchronicity II” being the centrepiece; the high production value of the whole enterprise, with vocal harmonies, keyboards and percussion layered on top of everything, yet somehow done in a way that doesn’t sound overblown. A lot of bands in the late 80s tried to capture the sound of “Synchronicity” and ended up with a mess; I guess you need genuine musical talent to pull this kind of thing off, who would have guessed.
The only downside I can comment on in regards to the album is that, sadly, Puff Daddy did ruin “Every Breath You Take” a wee bit. Still, this isn’t the album’s fault; that would be like blaming “Led Zeppelin III” for all the terrible hobbit rock that was inspired by it. I can say on the other hand that every other tune shines brightly enough: “King of Pain” and “Wrapped Around My Finger” still sound fantastic, more than thirty years later. Bold claim, but this is the only album that I would consider calling the “Sgt Pepper” of the 1980s.
Strange in some ways that it was the band’s last album. It was such a mega success at the time, you would have thought that whatever “artistic differences” were swirling around inside the band at the time could have been put aside for them all to cash in. Glad they didn’t. Just makes this record all the more special.