photo & text by nacrowe
one of the earliest music memories i have is riding with my father as a child in his HONDA ACCORD listening to music to and from his work in a neighboring town in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. it was on those small excursions that was introduced to everything from BRITISH INVASION bands like THE BEATLES, THE ANIMALS, THE WHO and so forth to PUNK / NEW WAVE / INDIE ROCK bands like THE RAMONES, JOHN HIATT, THE STRANGLERS, NICK LOWE, TALKING HEADS, ELVIS COSTELLO and especially THE SMITHS / early MORRISSEY. in and amongst that cohort of artists was THE POLICE and the DISTINCT, INDELIBLE memory i have is of those ICONIC flange and reverb-drenched open chords to "WALKING ON THE MOON" by THE POLICE on their second release REGGATTA DE BLANC (A&M, 1979).
and on a purely EMOTIONAL level, that song is THE POLICE to me. that EXPERT use of SPACE by guitarist ANDY SUMMERS and the POLYRHYTHMIC but TASTEFUL, LAIDBACK GROOVE of drummer STEWART COPELAND with PUNCTUATED PULSES promoting a PROPULSIVE forward MOMENTUM by singer/bassist STING. i dont know if its REGGAE per se (the album in english translates to white reggae), but it is a DISTINCT SONIC AESTHETIC in the history of ROCK AND ROLL, with no real precedent outside of the JAMAICAN DUB TRADITION.
COPELAND for one, having grown up overseas as a THIRD CULTURE KID in places like EGYPT and LEBANON (his father being involved with the CIA), has a renowned ability to incorporate COMPLEX POLYRHYTHMS that are distinctly rooted in AFRICAN and ARABIC TRADITIONS he experienced as a child and young adult. SUMMERS likewise had a NILES RODGERS-esque affinity for INTERESTING JAZZ INVERSIONS and VOICINGS for TRADITIONAL GUITAR CHORDS that made his sequences feel UNIQUE and EXOTIC. STING has always been a mystery to me as his BRASH VOCALS are what keep the band tethered to street level in a sense. it makes all of these sonic muso TEXTURES feel grounded in POST PUNK EXPERIMENTALISM and not the possible opening prelude to an extended PROG ROCK song. it is entirely ironic to me that his later discography followed the unfortunate trajectory of PAUL SIMON in exploiting WORLD CULTURES rather than TASTEFULLY curating them into a COHESIVE ARTISTIC STATEMENT a la PETER GABRIEL. in THE POLICE all of these DISPARATE DYNAMICS played to their STRENGTH and on singles like "MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE" and "WALKING ON THE MOON" off of REGGATTA DE BLANC, this was parlayed with striking results.
i am aware that as personalities, COPELAND and STING in recent years come off as SELF-CONGRATULATORY, NARCISSISTIC pricks. i for one am a huge fan and student of SUMMERS' GUITAR PLAYING and specifically his penchant for utilizing UNIQUE CHORD VOICINGS throughout their catalogue. if anything, stay for that and try to forget about the other two. if anything, that in particular is definitely worth checking out.