The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta (1980): Review

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Produced by Nigel Gray and The Police
Label – A&M

“Zenyatta Mondatta”, the third album from the trio was originally greeted with critical derision from the media for the seemingly rushed and musically incomplete nature of the recording. Recently, the rose tinted reminiscence of one of the U.K’s top recording bands has led to a more positive re-evaluation. There’s no denying that the album was recorded in a phenomenally short time, written and produced in less than four weeks, and the band have often expressed disappointment at the pressure to release a product that was in their opinion half finished. Drummer Stewart Copeland would go on to say “We had bitten off more than we could chew. We finished the album at 4 a.m. on the day we were starting our next world tour. It was cutting it very fine.” In addition the band were getting tired both with the rigours of touring and vitally, with each other, and it’s around this point in time that the personality clashes began to surface that would eventually destroy them. Perhaps the renewed re-assessment of such a positive nature comes directly from the fact that this album broke the band in the States reaching number 5, critically backed by the success of the singles “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”.

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“Zenyatta Mondatta” drifts little from the band’s first two releases, the white washed reggae mixed with spiky new wave, but the significant lean towards polished pop was more evident in the classroom infatuated love story “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”. Former English teacher Sting would constantly deny that the song was auto-biographical and the “Lolita” references were the thoughts of someone else’s mind, not his. Perhaps due to the time constraints there are three instrumentals which are frankly, pretty forgettable. Indeed, the Andy Summers penned “Behind My Camel” was deemed so bad, Sting refused to partake in the recording of the song, and allegedly Summers had to coax Stewart Copeland into adding rhythms. Bass duties were eventually undertaken by Summers. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” still remains a cause for debate between Police fans. For all its silly Pop banality, Sting explains it was a deliberate artistic attempt to create a classic song by using nonsense lyrics akin to “Da Doo Ron Ron”, which in this reviewer’s opinion makes the song even more ridiculous. There’s little to pick that compares to the quality of the band’s previous recordings, “Canary In A Coalmine” is fresh, Ska tinged and at least original. “When The World Is Running Down…” emits a cool funk groove, and highlights Summers hypnotic guitar interplay. The rest is a hurried and inconsequential addition to The Police back catalogue that lacks the bite of previous recordings, and suffers due to massive deficiencies in proficient material.

“Zenyatta Mondatta” is a record consistently sabotaged by half baked mediocrity.

5/10

Track Listing
1.”Don’t Stand So Close to Me” – 4:04
2.”Driven to Tears” – 3:20
3.”When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” – 3:38
4.”Canary in a Coalmine” – 2:26
5.”Voices Inside My Head” – 3:53
6.”Bombs Away” – 3:09
7.”De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” – 4:09
8.”Behind My Camel” – 2:54
9.”Man in a Suitcase” – 2:19
10.”Shadows in the Rain” – 5:02
11.”The Other Way of Stopping” – 3:22

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