Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Roar of the Chains and the Cracking of Timbers

I am more than a little obsessed with Sting, a fixation that goes back to seeing him as Feyd in David Lynch's Dune. But in spite of the fact that I love The Police I am always a little leery of Sting's solo efforts; some of his solo songs are amazing (Fields of Gold springs to mind) but most of them are forgettable at best and irritating at worst.

In spite of that caution I asked for his most recent album, The Last Ship, for Christmas and my lovely little sister gave it to me. I held off on listening to it until now, and I'm very sorry that I did.

The Last Ship is a concept album that deals with the shipyards and poverty in the small town where Sting grew up; it's being turned into a stage musical that I'm now quite looking forward to seeing.

The album is just great. It exceeded all of my expectations. It is well rounded and sweet and funny and heartbreakingly sad sometimes. Of the two discs in the set the first is probably the strongest and has three of my favorite songs on the album, The Last Ship, What Have We Got?, and The Ballad of the Great Eastern.

The music is interesting throughout the record, playing with jazz, rockabilly, and Celtic traditional sensibilities from song to song. What Have We Got? is probably the best, cheeriest drinking song that I've ever heard about terrible poverty; A Practical Arrangement is cool jazz and full of mourning. The Ballad of the Great Eastern is a ghost story told in a song, and is completely delightful.

This is an album that I'm happy to own, with songs that get stuck in my head and make me think of gray waters and dirty streets. If you're looking for anything that feels like Outlandos D'amour or Regetta De Blanc you won't find it here, but neither will you find the synth-y overproduction that infected so much of Sting's work in the nineties. If you're a fan of Sting, or if you like songs about the sea, or if you're just looking for some really fantastic songwriting The Last Ship is well worth a listen.

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