album notes


The Police
August 4, 2007, 7:25 pm
Filed under: The Police

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The Police
Span: 1978-1983
Gordon Sumner/Sting (vocals, bass); Andy Summers (guitar, strings); Stewart Copeland (drums, percussion)

Outlandos d’Amour: 6.98
Reggatta De Blanc: 7.23
Zenyatta Mondatta: 7.22
Ghost in the Machine: 7.22
Synchronicity: 7.5
Overall Rating: 7.23

On the band:

The Police: Three multi-talented musicians with multi-faceted personalities. Gigantic egos (justly so), independent postures, real geniuses. It’s Steely Dan, but not nearly as higher-than-thou and much more accessible. Actually, it’s more the Beatles.

Like the Fab Four, the Tenacious Trio (as we call them now), were very different people independent, but unified, knew their places (for the most part) and knew how to make amazing music. They took their influences from interesting places (The Police dabbled in punk, but were more coming from 60s rock, jazz and classical influences.) and used the current medium (punk, reggae) to show off their chops and deep wits.

The career paths of the Beatles and Police are also very similar. Raw debut record, rapidly changes forward-thinking style while getting consistently bigger, hits critical peak while wearing down on tour, matures as songwriters and musicians, probably realizes the end is nigh and releases a very sophisticated swan song. Only the Beatles released more albums, toured more and were much more popular (the idea of popularity had changed much too between 1964 and 1979).

Now, the Beatles didn’t hit a consistent groove until late 1965, carrying it out until 1970 with five stunning records (and two gappers that provided some great tracks as well). The Police, however, were wildly consistent, releasing five very strong records in six years. Look at my ratings — no album goes below 6.9, none goes above 7.5, and the mean is straddled thrice; I mean, if that ain’t consistent, what the hell is?

Moreover, within that consistency were many memorable tracks that almost any fair-weather rock fan can nail in “Name That Tune.” To count: “Roxanne,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “So Lonely,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Walking on the Moon,” “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da,” “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” “Invisible Sun,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Synchronicity II,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “King of Pain.” That’s 13 songs you can pick out of a lineup (another five or six can be debated for this list), and a good five of them are absolute classics.

Take that information, and remember this, there are only five Police albums. Just five. And no album has more than 11 songs. Overall, there are 54 album tracks in the history of the Police. And 13 of them are standout classic rock songs. So, almost 25 percent of the Police’s regular canon (24%) is familiar to the Regular Joe. That’s astounding!

George Starostin also says on his site the Police can’t be accused for contributing “filler” to their records. Yes, only a handful of Police tracks reach the lower depths (and they’re not even that bad), and moreover, you can never accuse the Police for not playing a song like it was filler (only the back-end stuff on Zenyatta can be considered). Simply put, these guys were songsmiths of the highest honor. Because of their lack of longevity and unfair classifications as a “punk” or “reggae” outfit, the Police will find themselves outside of the top-20 on most “Greatest of All Time” lists. Truth is, no band challenges the Beatles quite like the Police.

On the album ratings:

A lot of critics say Zenyatta Mondatta is the peak (forgive that pun) Police album. Some who don’t say Reggatta De Blanc hits the mark. Most don’t jump at Synchronicity, and in fact, some critics lambaste the swan song for being at once too adult contemporary and at once too ridiculous.

I say phooey. While the other four albums have one or two lesser tracks that don’t quiet nail it, Synchronicity’s only guilty party is “Mother,” and even that isn’t as bad as most critics make it. Add the above-average murderer’s row of Side Two and you got a strong above-average album. Of course, the other four albums aren’t suffering much worse and are just as entertaining and solid as the last.

Zenyatta is a great album, but you gotta wish those few middling instrumentals and pseudo-instrumentals had more meat. Reggatta De Blanc is the consistent favorite, a fun and fantastic second album that blows away everything from 1979. Ghost in the Machine is truly underrated and is, by my accounts, as good as Zenyatta. The debut is your typical raw debut, but hey, it’s a bunch of trained musicians. They knew what they were doing. Overall, five incredibly solid records — nothing that’ll top any lists, but nothing that’ll ever be forgotten. Basically, you must have all five in your collection. (Or grab the Message in a Box collection, which is every song they ever wrote. Huzzah!)

Song by song:

10.0: Every Breath You Take
9.7: Don’t Stand So Close to Me
9.7: Message in a Bottle
9.6: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
9.2: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
9.3: Roxanne
9.0: Invisible Sun
8.8: King of Pain
8.7: Synchronicity II
8.6: Walking on the Moon
8.6: So Lonely
8.6: Wrapped Around Your Finger
8.5: When the World is Running Down…
8.2: Can’t Stand Losing You
8.2: The Bed’s Too Big Without You
8.1: Spirits in the Material World
7.9: Tea in the Sahara
7.8: Driven to Tears
7.8: Rehumanize Yourself
7.8: Truth Hits Everybody
7.7: Demolition Man
7.7: Canary in a Coalmine
7.6: Bring on the Night
7.6: Bombs Away

7.4: Next To You
7.4: Reggatta De Blanc
7.3: Secret Journey
6.9: It’s Alright For You
6.9: On Any Other Day
6.8: O My God
6.7: Omegaman
6.6: Man in a Suitcase
6.6: Walking In Your Footsteps
6.5: Synchronicity I
6.5: Peanuts
6.4: Miss Gradenko
6.4: Too Much Information
6.4: Does Everyone Stare
6.3: Voices Inside My Head
6.3: Murder By Numbers
6.3: Hole in My Life
6.0: No Time This Time
6.0: One World (Not Three)
5.9: Hungry For You
5.8: Contact
5.8: Masako Tanga
5.8: Deathwish
5.8: The Other Way of Stopping
5.5: Behind My Camel
5.4: Born in the 50’s
5.1: Mother
5.0: Darkness
4.8: Shadows in the Rain
4.5: Be My Girl (Sally)



The Police: Outlandos d’Amour
August 4, 2007, 6:09 pm
Filed under: The Police

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Outlandos d’Amour
The Police
Released 1978

Next To You: 7.4
So Lonely: 8.6
Roxanne: 9.3
Hole in My Life: 6.3
Peanuts: 6.5
Can’t Stand Losing You: 8.2
Truth Hits Everybody: 7.8
Born in the 50’s: 5.4
Be My Girl (Sally): 4.5
Masako Tanga: 5.8
Overall Rating: 6.98

Ah, the beginning. In the grand fashion of Elvis Costello, The Who and — of course — the Beatles, the Police’s Outlandos d’Amour is a raw, quick-take thriller of a record. While their first albums all introduced the world to the band, no debut may point clearer toward the future than this. The Police reluctantly called themselves punk, but on this record, no song really reaches that aesthetic. Maybe “Peanuts” or “Next To You,” and on a good day. This is more musical, more complex, more mysterious. You’re not getting a bunch more “So Lonely”s after this record (ahem, Ramones). There is more here.

Still, it’s raw. Sting’s vocals are childish, imp, wondering and wandering. He’s not completely confident yet; he’s just a cocky kid (there’s a difference between confident and cocky, and it’s as clear as the difference between mature and childish). But his vocals endear themselves to these more rockin’ songs. Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland let Sting to explore a bit. In “Next to You” it’s pleading a bit, backed by a strong rock rhythm. In “Roxanne,” it’s all about the vocal. It’s a yearning vocal, fitting in well with the exploratory rhythm in back. “Can’t Stand Losing You” is standard rock fare, a whiny kind of tune that the mods would’ve loved. But it’s a fine pop song, good for an up-and-coming band form Britain trying to shuffle out of the punk world.

Some of the rock is misguided, as would be the case with raw debuts. “Born on the 50’s” is a nice song, but the lyrics are a bit too “I think I really know about the American boomer world” for a bunch of young guys from Britain. “Be My Girl (Sally)” just kind of bops along, and Summers’ monologue, while funny, detracts from the good of the song (gotta love the band’s big re-entry into the song, though). And “Masako Tanga” isn’t as short or tight as the better “Reggata De Blanc.” But those small things will be taken care of later.

“Peanuts” is the middling attempt at punk-pop, and is neither stunning nor mediocre. It’s just alive, swimming in the middle with the other bowery kids. Gotta like Summers’ lightning-paced work here, too. And “Hole in My Life” actually points way off to Ghost in the Machine with its jazzy textures and similar melody (“One World” anybody?) But again, it’s just kind of there with “Peanuts,” a simple pop song with some interesting non-punk work.

And “Hole in My Life” adds to the Me-Me-Me theme of the record. Sting once said this record was immature in that it was all about how “Me” felt. True. You got “Hole,” “Next to You,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “Be My Girl” and now “So Lonely,” which doesn’t even try to hide the feelings. “So Lonely” is Grade-A carbon-Marley, “No Woman No Cry,” but sung by and about a skinny white boy. And since “No Woman No Cry” is good, so is this. The best part of the song is how the reggae verse contradicts the punk chorus. The Police: Setting the foundation for the band with one song.

The real star of the show, however, and many will agree, is “Truth Hits Everybody.” Sitting there in the back of the record twiddling its thumbs, it’s 2:54 of very tight, very strong rock. Summers guitar never sounded so ripe, Copeland was never more on point and Sting doesn’t have that same wimpy vocal. This is a man’s punk song! The “take a look at my new toy” vocal is top notch, as is the fabulous instrumental break. (Where did the bell come from?!) This song along told you what these three musicians were capable of together.

Outlandos d’Amour is probably the least of the Police’s five records. But that isn’t saying anything bad about it. As far as raw debuts go, it’s greater than Costello’s My Aim is True, the Who’s My Generation and … yes … the Beatles’ Please Please Me. It’s very reliable rock music that starts with simple putty and morphs into an expanse of musical possibilities. Sting was no Marley clone, and these boys were no one-vinyl wonders. Not at all.



The Police: Synchronicity
August 4, 2007, 5:32 pm
Filed under: The Police

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Synchronicity
The Police
Released 1983

Synchronicity I: 6.5
Walking In Your Footsteps: 6.6
O My God: 6.8
Mother: 5.1
Miss Gradenko: 6.4
Synchronicity II: 8.7
Every Breath You Take: 10.0
King of Pain: 8.8
Wrapped Around Your Finger: 8.6
Tea in the Sahara: 7.9
Murder By Numbers: 6.3
Overall Rating: 7.42

The Police took a good year or so to craft Synchronicity, with personal problems bubbling all over the place and general band tension becoming very uncomfortable. Nobody figured this would be the last Police album, but the Police reached critical mass with Zenyatta Mondatta, and was about to reach popular mass with anything they’d create next. So they saved their best for that. Maybe.

Synchronicity is somewhat of an anomaly in the Police canon. Whereas the first four albums opened with the radio hits, introducing the new sound through accessibility, the Police this time challenge fans with the new sound through more extreme content, sitting on the hits for the back end. I mean, the album opens with songs about philosophy, dinosaurs, religion, Freud and nuclear holocaust; of course, breaking all convention, the album is their most popular. Seems the masses can handle heavy-handed content.

It’s a tough little sea to venture through at the top. Title track part one is a well enough opener, introducing the concept of Sting’s new discovery in a well-disguised concert blaster. “Walking in Your Footsteps” asks fans to sympathize with Mr. Brontosaurus, a high task indeed. Listen closer and it’s a basic song structure masked by African rhythms. Nothing wrong with this song other than initial unfamiliarity. And “O My God” is very 80s, very Police-ish, almost a castaway from Ghost in the Machine updated with the jazz bass and more mature lyrics. A nice number, nothing more.

The opening three seem like slow curves when compared to the wacky “Mother.” Certainly unlike anything the Police have done before, it’s a Beefheart creation, a rip off of sorts of Lennon, maybe, even maybe, a hilarious jab at Pink Floyd for their overblown 1979 double-disc Freudian orgy, The Wall. A lot of people write off “Mother” as unlistenable. Yes, Andy Summers’ vocal is a little too brash, but it’s a fun little twisted see-saw ride. Without a real hook, it suffers, but it’s not as excruciatingly bad as, oh, “Bring the Boys Back Home.” Then “Miss Gradenko” cleans up the mess; a real simple and cute pop number with some of Summer’s best work.

Then the real fun opens. I mean, they had to know these songs were all hits, and they had to have a laugh about it — “Hey, let’s close side one with the rock song, with the great opening, the kind of rockin’ ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’ number, then we’ll really just pull out all the hits to close ’er out.” And yeah, the opening of “Synchronicity II,” with the spacey synths and Sting’s 173rd reggae yelp, blast the baby wide open. It’s a great rocker, no more to say.

“Every Breath You Take” does, however, leave the rest in the dust. The best Police song ever, their contribution to the Greatest of All Time pantheon, their most endearing song, it’s not even a real love song. We all know that story. But it is a perfect song, from Summers’ effortless riff (Supposedly they all perked up and became wide eyed when Summers played the riff. They knew this song would just end it all.) to Sting’s classic vocal to the picture-perfect production.

Everything else pales, but not by much. “King of Pain” is subdued with a fine chorus, and the kind of intelligent imagery that can boost a song without the song being overblown and gaudy. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is another stunner, a fog of a track that, if sung just right, can be a tremendously moving ballad. Copeland’s less-is-more approach carries it too. “Tea in the Sahara” is a little clunky (the echo throws it off a bit), but a finely written song based on a story Sting read during this time. It also holds one of the band’s finest choruses. “Murder By Numbers” cleans it up; the added-on number is a delicious song about orgies, not serial killing (a ha!). The songs basically get gradually worse as the album ends (not much worse), but it’s the perfect approach. Nothing’s going to top “Every Breath,” and at the end, it just becomes forgotten. As a side opener it’s instantly stored, and you can ease your way through the end without being shocked by the sound (something they did well to open the album).

Synchronicity sees the Police doing some new things (pure balladry, primal scream, dinosaur numbers), but the sound is very cohesive. Past albums had a song or two that sounded a tad out of place, but here, it all comes together quite well. Now all the bells and whistles, all the song forms, they all make sense unified. And the sound is even more mature than ever (Sting would try to get even mature-er with his solo stuff, but just sounded preachy.); this is the band that went from the childish imp of “Can’t Stand Losing You” to the mature air of “Wrapped Around Your Finger” in just six years. Remind you of another band?

I wouldn’t be opposed to comparing the Police’s swan song with Abbey Road. Not at all.



The Police: Ghost in the Machine
August 4, 2007, 4:50 pm
Filed under: The Police

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Ghost in the Machine
The Police
Released 1981

Spirits in the Material World: 8.1
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic: 9.6
Invisible Sun: 9.0
Hungry For You: 5.9
Demolition Man: 7.7
Too Much Information: 6.4
Rehumanize Yourself: 7.8
One World (Not Three): 6.0
Omegaman: 6.7
Secret Journey: 7.3
Darkness: 5.0
Overall Rating: 7.22

Take one trio of gifted musicians, add reggae, jazz, rock and punk, then mix in some synthesizers, world beat and political ruminations, and you have the most eclectic of the Police’s five albums, the underrated Ghost in the Machine. Sandwiched in between critical favorite Zenyatta Mondatta and popular favorite Synchronicity, Ghost is the real fan’s challenge — the album that houses the tracks most fair-weather fans can’t name. After the triple shot at the front, the names get murky, but the sound is very full, very mature, and of course, very early 80s.

The song most guilty of being very early 80s is “Too Much Information,” an almost disco-style rave-up with saxophones and R&B guitar fills. As part of the song’s cache, there is “too much” going on behind the regular melody, a purposeful little nugget of interest. In the grand scheme, it’s the Police at their most overindulgent. Of course, that word is tossed around a lot in Ghost, with the soaring “Omegaman,” Andy Summers’ space rocker that should’ve spawned a comic book character. Then there’s “Demolition Man” — its older cousin — that drags its coda out a bit, but not too much. Really, the best pure jam in the Police catalogue and an incredibly infectious number. And speaking of that, there’s “Rehumanize Yourself,” the best pure pop number in the Police cataloge, an up-tempo stunner completely overlooked and better than 1980’s “Canary in a Coalmine.”

“Secret Journey” and “Darkness” push the musical landscape a bit farther. “Journey” is also overindulgent, an overly dramatic Police-sounding number with some of Sting’s better vocals. It would’ve been well served as the album closer, and not “Darkness,” a somewhat lost number Stewart Copeland penned. If you listen to the B-sides and outtakes from this era, this song would be better off in that group, and not in the proper LP.

“One World (Not Three)” is a real ska sound, not like the fake ska sound of “Canary in a Coalmine.” It’s the kind of number Sting would harp on over and over (“It’s a subject we rarely mention” — Ha!) and Paul Simon would do better on in the future. While “Demolition Man” has a worthwhile extended coda, this song could be better off losing a minute from the back end. Meanwhile, “Hungry For You” has the worst French vocalizing since the Beatles’ “Michelle,” and isn’t quite memorable in later listens. It does hurt the song follows such a strong opening triad.

And speaking of that triad. If one band knew how to make musical statements, it was the Police. They always opened with something fresh, then eased their way to something outrageous by using smartly crafted pop songs in the front of the record. Imagine popping “Too Much Information” in slot two instead of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Doesn’t flow the same, right?

Of course, “Magic” is the best song here, a popcorn-filled bucket of musical electricity. It’s one of the few songs that will make anyone smile, no matter the occasion. (Well, aside from grim death.) It actually sounds a bit out of place, what with Sting’s bow being put to use and the fact that the song is just so tightly crafted. Still, it’s overabundant in its deliciousness, and any album’s worth increases tenfold with it in its arsenal.

Opener “Spirits in the Material World” is a bit of a statement and has a wickedly interesting rhythm, teetering on reggae and jazz, but not really being either, and also having some African influence, but it’s not completely noticeable. Actually, it’s just there, much like the Beatles’ “Come Together” (Hey, and how about a comparison between “Magic” and “Something?”). It’s not really anyone’s favorite song, but it is a good song, and it does what it’s supposed to do. So there.

“Invisible Sun” I saved for last, because while “Magic” is a transcendent song, “Sun” is the best song on most bands’ best albums. That intro, the subdued but powerful rhythm, the haunting synth keys and of course, Sting’s very quiet but wrenching vocal. If any song is an example of “less is more,” it’s this. The first five years of U2 were built on this song.

Okay, Ghost in the Machine, to many, isn’t best Police album. And maybe it’s not. But it’s a very close call. Sure, the middle songs aren’t as good as Reggatta‘s middle songs, but the opening three are electric, and no song outright stinks (no Police song really does…). But this is the kind of album that’s like no other. It’s as if Graceland and OK Computer had a baby, but the baby was three years older than Graceland. It’s a very ahead-of-its-time record (more ahead of its time than any Police album), and yet, some of the songs and topics are just a tad dated. Kind of a Catch 22 album, but a very enjoyable, provoking listen. Pop music didn’t get much more intelligent and eclectic than this.



The Police: Zenyatta Mondatta
August 4, 2007, 1:08 pm
Filed under: The Police

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Zenyatta Mondatta
The Police
Released 1980

Don’t Stand So Close to Me: 9.7
Driven to Tears: 7.8
When the World is Running Down…: 8.5
Canary in a Coalmine: 7.7
Voices Inside My Head: 6.3
Bombs Away: 7.6
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da: 9.2
Behind My Camel: 5.5
Man in a Suitcase: 6.6
Shadows in the Rain: 4.8
The Other Way of Stopping: 5.8
Overall Rating: 7.22

The Police were, in 1980, ready to be on top of the world. Their last release, 1979’s Reggatta De Blanc, gave them some chart hits, a U.S. following and the respect of most forward-thinking rock fans in the world. And it was almost calculated — this newfound success that would brim into superstardom. They knew it. No wonder the title of their third record is unabashedly, “On Top of the World.”

Actually, it’s called Zenyatta Mondatta. But the translation works, and the songs are all geared to put the Police squarely at the apex of the music world. Bringing in new sounds from across the globe, they further flesh out their songs, which were originally rooted in reggae, rock, punk and jazz. It’s the same effect as The Beatles’ Revolver, which is probably the best comparison to this album. No lie.

Of course, Revolver never had as tremendous a pop-rock song as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” a song that was meant to open and meant to introduce the band to the whole world. It’s accessible yet intelligent, isn’t too far removed from “Message in a Bottle” (lest to upset fans from the ’79 caravan) and allows for change (the spacy instrumental break points toward Ghost in the Machine. Of course, it’s a fantastic song, yet another classic in the pantheon (of about 4 now).

The Police dabbled in instrumentals before, but in Zenyatta, they break out three. (“Voices in My Head” is part-instrumental, I suppose.) As the band claims they rushed this album (unbelievable, ain’t it?), these could’ve had lyrics, but as it stands, “Behind My Camel,” “The Other Way of Stopping” and “Voices” go without and aren’t completely bad for it. “Voices” isn’t too bad, and the most it does is provide atmosphere, which this album seems drenched in. “Camel” is a little more entertaining and worthy of its Grammy for Best Instrumental, and “Stopping” does make that last climb for the “Top of the World,” so it’s fun nonetheless.

Still, the way these instrumentals were popped into the fray, one thinks the rushed sense of the production is to blame. These songs probably could’ve been so much more, and with only 11 songs on the docket, you pine for much more.

That said the real songs — the ones that made the lyrical cut — are all outstanding. “Driven to Tears” takes “Don’t’ Stand” and pounds it into the ground with some neo-political ruminations and pounding beats by Mr. Stewart Copeland. That effortlessly transitions into “When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around.” I read somewhere that the best way to describe is it to say it’s everything The Police does well in a song. And I couldn’t say it better. Shimmering chords, funky bassline, a drop-dead instrumental break, a genuinely perfect mood song. And Sting’s lyrics say so much without saying so much (“Pick up the telephone/I’ve listened here for years/No one to talk to me/I’ve listened here for years.”), while the vocal delivery is almost casual, lax. Green Day would add much more grime to it with “Basket Case.” Oh, and that comes before the happy-go-lucky “Canary in a Coalmine,” one of Sting’s most playful lyrics complimenting one of the band’s most playful performances.

“Bombs Away” seems like what the instrumentals could’ve been if fleshed out with lyrics. It also puts you somewhere in the Middle East, right where “Behind My Camel,” “Shadows in the Rain” and “Voices Inside My Head” live. (In fact, you can write an entire essay on Zenyatta being the best album ever about the Middle East.) It’s a very catchy song with a funky little breakdown. “Shadows,” for what it’s worth, is a nice break and continues that mystical theme to a tee. And “Man in a Suitcase” is as “filler” as the Police get, but still manages to be one of pop music’s best songs about the traveling rock star.

Oh, then there’s “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” which seems almost lost in the middle of the record. That’s a good thing — you almost forget it’s there, then when you hear it, say ‘Wow! It’s this song!’ A real pop classic with some heavy lyrics (and I song I heard again in 2007 during The Police’s reunion tour and thought, ‘Wow! This song sounds like it was written today!’)

To appreciate Zenyatta best, listen to it front to back. You’ll hear how the album moves to a more intelligent sound. This can’t be the band that gave us “Roxanne,” but it is. Yes, the instrumentals seem hurried and thrown in, but imagine — if you will — the possibilities of this album if they were given proper treatment. Could be the best album ever. Instead, it only put the Police on top of the world.



The Police: Reggatta De Blanc
August 2, 2007, 8:13 pm
Filed under: The Police

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Regatta De Blanc
The Police
Released 1979

Message in a Bottle: 9.7
Regatta De Blanc: 7.4
It’s Alright For You: 6.9
Bring on the Night: 7.6
Deathwish: 5.8
Walking on the Moon: 8.9
On Any Other Day: 6.9
The Bed’s Too Big Without You: 8.2
Contact: 5.8
Does Everyone Stare: 6.4
No Time This Time: 6.0
Overall rating: 7.23

For veteran musicians like The Police, a second album wasn’t a place to just grow — it was also a place to showcase some of the era’s most important songs. Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland were trained in the ways of jazz, reggae and other eclectic styles. “Reggatta De Blanc” was a chance to let those styles come out, all without losing the trademark sound the band established with “Outlandos D’Amour.” And with “Reggatta De Blanc,” the boys made an album that clearly defines its era as possibly the foremost new wave album.

Yeah, this is new wave at its inception, and maybe its best. “Reggatta De Blanc” is like new wave itself — rooted in punk, flourishing with reggae melodies, high pop harmonies and … very important … it’s a fun record. “Message in a Bottle,” the best song in the history of new wave music, is completely fun, with Sting’s reggae lifts (“seeee-o/meeee-o/baiiiii-ah/despaiiii-o”). Though “Message” is the album’s best song, you never feel like the quality is lesser. The title track chugs along with persistence, leading to the joyous chants of “e-yay-yo!” It’s a show-stopping instrumental — and when can you ever say an instrumental is show-stopping?

In fact, you can never say The Police don’t try. Every one of their songs sounds like a full-on 100 percent effort. Nobody pounds the drums harder than Copeland, nobody keeps his ear to the fret bar like Summers and nobody sings and plays with such determination as Sting. And before the latter put politics into his wordplay, there was this album, where the effort and fun — something I keep alluding to — match each other gloriously.

Take “Walking on the Moon,” the moody but boisterous mid-tempo bopper. It’s incredibly singable, with the infectious bridge (“some may say, I’m wishing my daaaays away …”) and Sting’s almost childlike vocal. Not to mention the walking bassline (of course it’s “walking!”). You also have the full-on reggae onslaught of “The Bed’s Too Big Without You,” which casts a better shadow than the dark ballad “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

Even Copeland gets in on the game, contributing “On Any Other Day” and the out-of-place, Cabaret number “Does Everyone Stare.” Somehow, though, the pieces fit, because these songs are both entirely fun. “On Any Other Day” has one of the most singable choruses in Police history, while “Everyone” somehow gets a line in about kicking a girl in the shins. How can that not be a fun number?

There are lesser numbers that don’t completely stick in the mind. “Deathwish,” while fun, doesn’t carry much weight. And “Contact” seems a little forced and obvious. “No Time This Time” isn’t a bad song, especially as a closer, but it’s not entirely memorable. But then again, you have the punky “It’s Alright For You” and the very memorable, very lovely “Bring on the Night,” possibly the most underrated song in the Police’s canon.

“Reggatta De Blanc” is the most fun The Police ever had on record, and it’s one of those albums you can play when feeling down (or blue, as this record cover so fantastically captured), and instantly feel better afterward. New wave doesn’t get much better than this.