Sound — 6
A new rock record from Police frontman Sting, especially in this year, is something that the British singer-songwriter had turned out for quite some time. In fact, it was back in 2013 that the vocalist had ruled out ever writing songs for a rock band again, in favor of the "inward navel gazing" that attentive fans heard on the theatrical sea shanty album "The Last Ship" from 2013 and the classical-themed "Symphonicities" three years prior. And yet here we are with "57th & 9th," Sting's first rock record since "Sacred Love," which keeps its feet firmly planted in pop rock territory while at times recalling similarities to his early work as a member of The Police. You can hear the resemblances in the opening track "I Can't Stop Thinking About You," a song filled with melodic hooks, a slight upbeat jazz rock feel propelled by grooving bass lines, big group vocal harmonies and a bright refrain which could sit right alongside modern rock radio contemporaries like The Killers or Neon Trees.
There are some quick right turns as far as the flow of the song, but it's classic sounding Sting and doesn't disappoint going into his first rock record in thirteen years. There's a bit of weariness when it comes to hitting the higher notes on songs like "Petrol Head," yet Sting keeps the positive sounding vibes going forward throughout much of the record. Other numbers like "50,000" are more reflective rockers which have Sting tackling his thoughts on watching his fellow rock veterans pass away and later reading their obituaries, whereas "Pretty Young Soldier" is a slightly awkward acoustic folk tune which breaks the otherwise rowdy mold of the record. Extended jazz chords drives "Down, Down, Down" into one of the clear highlights on "57th & 9th," as is the climate change inspired "One Fine Day" which, aside from some rather uninspired sounding lyrical segments ("Dear leaders please do something quick/ Time's up/ The planet's sick") supports the notion that Sting has rediscovered some passion for the style of music he helped develop several decades prior.
Lyrics — 7
Sting has always had a way of telling a story through his lyrics, and his vocal performances similarly helped to convey the message behind the song. Much of what we find here on "57th & 9th" is no different, as Sting goes from the familiar romanticized atmosphere of "I Can't Stop Thinking About You" to the slightly melancholic "50, 000" and the moderately bizarre recounting of a sexual experience gone wrong in his youth on "Petrol Head" (doesn't take a scholar to understand what he means when it's three and a half minutes talking about a "burning bush" and a "stick shift in my hand," but it's a solid song nonetheless). Whether he's pushing a political message or recounting a personal experience, Sting's lyrics find a comfortable groove within the song while still giving the listener something to take away from it.
Overall Impression — 7
While it wasn't without a handful of missteps, Sting returns to rock territory with a compilation of distinctively authentic-sounding tracks on "57th & 9th." A few breaks here and there are to be expected; it's been more than a decade since Sting even embraced a rock record, let alone after spending several years repeatedly turning down such a notion. There's more than enough standout moments to constitute picking up a copy, and hopefully this return will encourage Sting to continue writing new material in this vein.