57th & 9th
Within a day or so of seeing a pretty incredible Sting (and Peter Gabriel) show I read the news that Sting was set to release a rock album; his first in over a decade. I was ready to sign up. Years of that fruit with a lute and bloody orchestral recreations and musicals and just so many over-egged omelettes has made it hard to show your face in public as a Sting fan. I’m fairweather at best. I love that Soul Cages/Ten Summoner’s/Mercury Falling trilogy. I like The Police. Not much else. There’s enough there. And so many shitty lyrics and hackneyed attempts and – gah! – “passion projects” littering the tray elsewhere.
Anyway, the new album, prosaically titled after the location of the studio where it was recorded and we kick off with a rather Police-sounding rocker. The chorus is so very-80s. And it’s okay. But we hit the lurch almost immediately, with 50,000 – a song that Mark Knopfler would have kicked to the curb even in the darkest moments of Dire Straits’ brightest, shining excess.
Yes it’s a bass/drums/gat rock-combo but the playing is fairly uninspired, the writing pedestrian, the grooves only just churning-along. There’s really nothing to recommend it.
And then Pretty Young Soldier taps right into that Soul Cages feel, the guitars of Lyle Workman and Dominic Miller a treat, Vinnie Colaiuta getting inside that groove the way he does. It’s a lovely joy of a song.
The oily-rag smell of Petrol Head is a bit embarrassing; feels like one of the Joe Satriani songs where he sings.
And then we dive down into typical Sting balladry. The vaguely-renaissance tone of Heading South On The Great North Road, pretentious and ponderous even without a fucking lute.
If You Can’t Love Me is yet another rewrite of the stalker-ish and inappropriate (Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Every Breath You Take) and though the swell of the drums and guitars is majestic the vocal is insincere and feels like a hangover from his sea-shanty musical exploits. Plus the subject matter is creepy-af.
The thought of a kick-ass return-to-rock Sting album had me. Perhaps only because I’d seen a vital performance of mostly Police-era music and the key solo hits. He looked and sounded magnificent.
But this is just another Sting album. Not as shit as most of them, but shittier than his best efforts. And utterly unnecessary. I waded through it so you don’t have to. Whatever you think of him or me, at least remember that.