Culture | Stuck on Shuffle: Laying down the law

Loving the Police is not a crime

My roommates and I recently threw our first chili cook-off. It was a massive success for a number of reasons, primarily because lots of people brought chili to my house. As I often do before social gatherings, I had positioned my DVD of the Police’s Synchronicity Concert on top of the television. It functions as a highly effective conversation piece, and I can usually channel the conversation into a public viewing, and then, well, I’m typically set for the evening. As it happened on this particular Sunday, one attendee noticed the DVD as things were winding down, and I quickly swooped in, grinning broadly and claiming ownership. Our conversation was as follows:

Curious chili lover: Yeah…man, I love the Police, but I’m usually too embarrassed to say that out loud.

Zach Shuster: Really? Last year I spent the bulk of my accumulated summer earnings to fly from my home in Honolulu, Hawaii to Manchester, Tennessee to see a Police reunion concert.

My dominant fandom thus established, I was suddenly shocked to see that most people in the room were grimacing. I came to a terrible realization: Being a really huge Police fan might not be cool. For the sake of addressing this unfortunate social reality, I hereby present to McGill Daily readers, skeptics, and believers alike, three reasons why the Police are the greatest rock band ever – past, present, or future.

Reason 1: Tantric Sting

The lead singer of the Police is Sting. Sting is proficient in a number of areas: he can play the bass (can you play the bass?), he has golden vocal chords, and he is a celebrated practitioner of tantric sex. In fact, he is frequently the subject of parody due to the candor with which he discusses his sex practices. What many people don’t know is that Sting is also a world-renowned practitioner of what I like to call “tantric conversation.” Allow me to explain: most interviews of music personalities delve only briefly into intimate discussions of personal sexuality. Clinical findings suggest that the subject occupies perhaps seven to 13 minutes (on average) of overall interview time, before reaching a climax and trailing off into a refractory period of variable length (this is usually when the celebrity professes a dedication to preserving the environment). Sting, by employing an arsenal of synchronized breathing techniques and refusing to break eye-contact, can maintain a discussion on the topic of tantric sex for up to 14 hours, leaving the interviewer thoroughly, transcendently informed.

Reason 2: Fadeouts

The Police know they rock. They write songs that rock so hard that they don’t feel the need to write endings for them, because ending a song means admitting it needs to end. The Police don’t play your game. That’s why almost every Police song ends with a fadeout, implying that it’s still playing somewhere. You see, the fadeout is the rock song equivalent of awkwardly leaving a boring conversation at a house party. When “Walking on the Moon” is “finished” on your iPod, and “On Any Other Day” starts playing, that doesn’t mean the song is actually over; it just means it’s done with you, and it’s gone to do something better with itself. It’s probably made its way over to my iPod, where it will be appreciated by someone who’s willing to eat nothing but buttered pasta for weeks just so he can stand in a dirty field in the Deep South to see Sting from a distance.

Reason 3: A hundred million bottles

Jokes aside, the Police have written some of the most enduring pop songs of the last 40 years. (Which by itself is no big deal – even Journey cranked one out.) What sets them apart is the fact that most, if not all, of their most celebrated tunes deal with alienation, and not just in the “sexy people won’t talk to me” sense, but the “I always feel like I’m stranded on a desert island” sense, the “You don’t love me anymore so I’ll probably kill myself” sense, and, most popularly, the “I’m constantly watching you through your bedroom window because you’re my property…and God only knows what I’m up to in this tree” sense. (That’s “Every Breath You Take,” I’m afraid, and depending on how old you are, there’s a good chance it was played at your parents’ wedding.)

There’s something at work here that I happen to think is brilliant: Imagine tens of thousands of people in their eighties best, packed in arenas around the world; huge crowds of folks standing shoulder to shoulder, singing along about how lame they are, and how wretched it feels to be alone. The Police’s best jam, “So Lonely,” can be found on the 1978 album Outlandos d’Amour. Next time you’re feeling particularly shitty, I suggest you throw it on. It’s a buoyant pop/reggae number of the best variety, with lyrics about melancholic hang-ups against a backdrop of new-wave sunshine. Before you know it, you’ll be beaming along with a proud tradition of Police fans through the years who’ve known the value of translating the worst human preoccupations into radio rock staples. So lonely, indeed.