The Police Zenyatta Mondatta Review

Released 1980.  

BBC Review

A rushed album, but still filled with gems...

Susie Goldring 2007

The cover of the third Police album makes an astounding visual statement with its pyramid sunset, particularly when compared to that of Regatta de Blanc. However, musically, it comes across as almost the complete opposite. In Regatta, the Police punctuated reggae with pop. In Zenyatta, Copeland, Summers and Sting accent pop with reggae. Despite using Nigel Gray to produce, just as he did on the first two albums, Zenyatta reveals a band whose rise to fame has calmed the music.

The album opens with one of the most overplayed Police tracks. ‘'Don't Stand So Close to Me’’'s sinister synthesiser sends shivers down your spine when overlaid with Summers' guitar and Sting's tormented vocals; ‘Young teacher the subject of schoolgirl fantasy/she wants him so badly, knows what she wants to be’. The singer's voice ranges from teacher terse to panicky as the chorus of this track about a predatory Lolita fades out. It's a song that makes you want to shake and cough. It's menacing, funky, literary, thoroughly enjoyable and truly catchy. Perhaps not surprisingly it made it to number 1 in the UK charts, and was the biggest selling single of 1980.

Another testimony to pop and the second chart topper off this album is ‘‘De Do Doo Do De Da Da Da’’. Sick of criticisms of shallowness, Sting pointed out that chanting inanely along with songs such a ‘‘Doo Wah Diddy’’ and ‘’Da Doo Ron Ron’’, isn’t always just what it’s all about.

Andy Summers' guitar comes in all jangly and scratchy on tunes like ‘‘Driven To Tears’’ and the surprisingly optimistic (for the Police) but fairly bland '’The World Is Running Down’’.

Familiar Police territory returns with the sense of fragmentation that is "Shadows in the Rain", largely created by Stuart Copeland’s precise drumming, and ‘'Voice Inside my Head’' with the delivery of the lyrics making them almost sound like some sort of indefinable language.

‘’Behind My Camel", written, unusually, by Summers, branches out into Eastern flavour. It was so unpopular with the rest of the band that Sting is said to have buried the tape in disgust. However, after it was dug up again and dusted down, the track went on to win a Grammy.

More fun upbeat ska-influenced tracks, such as ‘‘Canary in Coalmine’’ and ‘‘Man in a Suitcase’’ follow, but while, all in all, there are some good moments on this album, Zenyatta Mondatta showed the Police at the end of their first run of luck and straining to fir the pop mould while running to keep up with global success. Not until Synchronicity would they return to classic status.

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