Sound — 9
What do you get when you take an R&B guitarist, a jazz bassist and a prog-rock drummer? A punk-reggae band, of course! And indeed, the Police's 1978 debut Outlandos d'Amour is split between reggae shuffles and punkier numbers, with a few experimental pieces thrown in for good measure. Arguably the group's strongest studio effort, Outlandos gives us winner after winner (at least until towards the end).
Lyrics — 9
Things start off with "Next to You," the punkiest song the band ever performed if you disinclude their indie single "Fallout/Nothing Achieving," which is mediocre at best. "Next to You," however, has more hooks than most songs twice its length. The harmonies here really make it all worthwhile. "So Lonely" is the first reggae track here. Guitarist Andy Summers plays off Sting's groovy bass line in the verses, while the choruses are sped up to punk speed. "Roxanne" is perhaps the biggest hit here. Though often called reggae, Sting has always called it a "tango." Whatever it is, it succeeds as a pop song here. Arguably the catchiest song ever about a prostitute, Sting tells her to "put away the makeup" and "turn off the red light." The song's shuffle makes it one of the most distinctive numbers in the Police catalog. "Hole in My Life" is a rather experimental track. I'll admit I wasn't at all fond of it at first. This song's hook takes repeated listens to fully appreciate, as the melody here isn't as obvious as on the other tracks. Once you get into it, it's yet another winner. "Peanuts" is yet another punker. It's worth noting that Summers uses very minimalistic riffs in most of the punk numbers rather than the rapid downstrokes of most of his contemporaries. Then again, Summers (once a candidate to replace Mick Taylor in the Stones) was considerably more proficient on his instrument than the likes of, say, the Clash. "Peanuts" is just a fun song, with a madcap solo by Summers showing even a player as restrained as him was able to let loose and have fun once in a while. "Can't Stand Losing You" is straight-up reggae. Sting tells about an angry ex who eventually decides the only way out is suicide. Like "Roxanne," the subject matter wouldn't seem to be hit single material, but the melody here is almost morbidly happy and catchy. Summers gets an interesting guitar break before Sting declares his final intention. "Truth Hits Everybody" is yet another punk rocker. Note the bell effects and Summers' fast but tight strumming. "Born in the 50's" is the first truly weak track here, and that's largely because the chorus of "We were born in the 50s" is repeated so many times as to becoming annoying. Lines like "Would they drop the bomb on us when we made love on the beach?" make it all worth while though. "Be My Girl - Sally" starts off with an infectious riff, but soon gives way to a story about a blow-up doll, told in Andy Summers' thick accent and accompanied by seemingly random piano chords. It feels like this great riff was wasted on a track that quickly wears thin in the humor department. "Masoko Tango" is a showcase for Sting's virtuosity with the bass and Stuart Copeland's ability to effortlessy change time signatures. The instruments make it fun to listen to, though it's hardly an essential number.
Overall Impression — 9
The Police would abandon the punk overtones on their next album, leaving it as a largely reggae and pop-inspired affair. The Police would become increasingly tight (I avoid the word formulatic here) on future releases, and never again would they sound like they're having as much fun as they have here. The fun they have transfers to the listeners, making this a highly enjoyable and recommendable listen.