Saturday, March 10, 2012
Way back in the mists of childhood, I received an LED (light emitting diode) watch as a Christmas gift. Futuristic mid-70's technology, only minutes ahead of its time.
When the watch battery was dying and the magic button on the side was pressed to display the time, this LP cover appeared instead. A full five years before it was utilized by a distinguished, English power trio.
Meanwhile, in 1981...
The fourth release by the law enforcers began the process of unraveling their established sound. Copeland's foundation work is solid, though Andy changed his guitar tone to embark on some interesting tangents. Keyboards now figured more prominently in a denser mix.
Sting picks up the sax.
Critical raves have accompanied the very mention of this record, yet only five truly worthy songs stand out.
"Spirits in the Material World" has a bassline that defies gravity. Randy Jackson, a fine bassist in his own right, raved about Sting's idiosyncratic figures to author Daniel Levitin in "This is Your Brain on Music". Rightly so! Mr. Sumner outdoes himself with both the tune and his top class instrumental performance. Similarly, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" is so good that it could not be improved upon. The tension that builds in the verse is swept away by joyous abandon in the infectious chorus. High energy playing from all involved makes this work that any pop writer would happily add to the "wish I had penned that one" file.
Things quickly change from upbeat to turgid as the opening strains of "Invisible Sun" come into focus. The count in carries the suggestion of a slowly swinging watch on a chain, lulling the listener into deep sleep. This somnambulistic state can be maintained until Andy's excellent "Omegaman" jolts you awake with a killer riff and explosive dynamics. It would have been a single too, but Sting vetoed it. "Secret Journey" and Stewart's brooding "Darkness" (with madly panned high hat work) bring things to a close.
These gems rank with the best of anything they recorded during their short tenure as a trio.
At risk of being beaten about the head with one of Sting's yoga mats, naive political statements ("Rehumanize Yourself", "One World") mixed with flat out repetitive tunes drag down the rest of the album. Could you honestly spend an hour in a locked room listening only to "Demolition Man"? Six minutes is pushing it. While the grooves are in place, the lack of hooks, coupled with smothering horns add unnecessary weight to the other compositions.
About that album title...
British philosopher Gilbert Ryle used ghost in the machine as a derogatory description for René Descartes' mind-body dualism. Descartes himself had been a ghost for about 300 years at this point (1949), so I really don't think that he cared. Arthur Koestler's 1967 book, which uses Ryle's phrase as its title is cited as Sting's inspiration for the project. The main focus is mankind's movement towards self-destruction.
Speaking of which, you can splice the first two selections with the last three on this disc, remove the filler tracks and take them on a long drive out to the middle of nowhere for disposal. They simply lack the spark that the others have in abundance. The next project would be their last, though it is far more rewarding in all aspects.