H. Jin | Melbourne, Australia | 11/20/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`Ghost In The Machine' is the sound of The Police changing.
Much darker and more serious than their early albums, `Ghost..' begins to incorporate the philosophical and political ideas that would characterise Sting's solo career. Named after a work by Arthur Koestler, his blend of philosophy and social commentary are evident in the lyrics to several songs. `Ghost...' was also the album where The Police began expanding their music beyond their typical reggae/punk sound. They incorporate synths and saxophones on many tracks, and move further into jazz, funk and pop.
Really, only a couple of songs are reminiscent of the band's early work. The piano-tinged pop of `Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and the French `Hungry For You' are the most upbeat songs on the album, while `Secret Journey', with its heavy syncopation, reminds me a little of `Don't Stand So Close To Me'.
Elsewhere, the material is much more introspective and experimental. Hints of Koestler's philosophies are evident in the reggae-cum-synthpop of `Spirits In The Material World', the jazzy `Demolition Man', and the biting but catchy `Rehumanise Yourself'. There are also a couple of more straightforward political protests, the highlight of which is the ominous `Invisible Sun', regarding The Troubles in Northern Ireland. And the beautiful but nihilistic `Darkness' is a disturbing closer, a deeply personal song that also fits the themes of the album, as if this Brave New World is too overwhelming to face anymore.
Despite all this seriousness and introspection, most of the songs are surprisingly catchy and accessible. In the traditional guitar/bass/drums format, they might have sounded abrasive and confrontational, but the use of horns and keyboards help flesh out the songs and give them a pop gloss. The downside is that the layers of instrumentation can leave Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland a bit marginalised. While they still have some great moments (check out the guitar solos in `Demolition Man'), the dynamic of the band has begun to change, becoming less of a genuine three-piece and more Sting plus his backup group.
So it's not The Police of old, but `Ghost In The Machine' is still a good album. The expansion of the band's sound point the way forward to the pop perfection of `Synchronicity', but `Ghost..' doesn't really sound like that album. In fact, it doesn't sound like anything else the band ever did. In both its explicitly socio-political lyrics and its horn-driven jazz feel, `Ghost In The Machine' is a unique album in The Police catalogue. Definitely worth seeking out.