The Police – Certifiable/ A and M Records
Having seen the reunited Police experiment in 2007, with all the large stage spectacle that comes with one of the biggest fall-into-bed-with-ex-girlfriend circumstances in rock history, it’s nice to be able to take a strictly aural examination of what the unit that once broke boundries between punk, new wave, and pop was able to do in their wrinkled years. Certifiable, a 2-disc set recorded live in Buenos Aires, allows for an unadulterated listen, free of distractions such as Sting’s uninterested gaze, Andy Summer’s increasing resemblance to a hobbit, and Stewart Copeland’s seemingly never ending promises/threats to “get naked and swim among you,” which was mentioned at least twice at the show I saw. The results are interesting, and understandably mixed.
Seeing as how there is almost no new original material, and that everyone in the world will know 90 percent of the tracklist enough to sing along, the album nevertheless prevails in offering a very new set of music to even ardent Police fans. The playing of the reunited band stays very loose from the very start of opener “Message in a Bottle” through the whole first disc, a marked change from the strict composed franticness of the band when it dissolved in the early 80’s. It bears more of a resemblance to the early era punk hybrid Police, although instead of that era’s tendency to hide sensitivity and groove behind rave ups and speed, the aged version uses it’s reggae chops and atmospheric sensibilities to develop very organic versions of even the most rigid of pop tracks, like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath”.
Additionally, and most likely a result to Copeland’s love affair with Oysterhead, the band tacks on new extended jams to almost every single track, sometimes going far off the beaten path in a very refreshing way. Fans of Copeland’s intense versatility and virtuosity will have his playing as reason alone to hear this album, as he scatters dub, jazz, and even metal across the familiar landscapes of the Police hits. “Driven to Tears” is slow and menacing at it’s start, leading to a heavy bridge powered by Copeland’s stadium-sized playing. It’s also a reminder of how long the Police have had to learn how to play to stadiums; some of the best improvisation on the album comes from sections where the bands plays minimally, allowing the huge speaker systems to hit the audience in a more thoughtful way.
However, as mentioned before, a clear audible picture of the new Police certainly yields some imbalances in how the band functioned on the comeback trail. While Copeland sounds refreshed, invigorated, and contemporary, that same enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily appear from Sting. To his credit, Sting hits every note and then some; his ability to smoothly deliver melody, both in composition and the jam sections, is showcased everywhere. But even while maintaining a great competence on bass and vocals, Sting just sounds like he wants to be doing other things, let alone tantric meditation. He doesn’t seem to have the same connection to many of the older songs’ more adolescent themes. Andy Summers, on the contrary, tries very hard, but that shows itself for most of the album. His struggles to regain rock chops after decades of ambient and jazz projects keep him constantly one step behind Copeland and Sting, and it sometimes drags down some of the faster classics like “Truth Hits Everbody.” On the bright side, when he’s allowed to relax and play more speciously in the improve segments, Summers tends to connect much more and lead the sections towards their peak.
7/10: Good for casual fans who saw the show; better for hardcore Police fans who have been imagining what Roxanne would sound like with a jam.