Album Review: Flexible Strategies

Flexible Strategies, by the Police

If you are like most relatively casual fans of the Police, you will know that the band broke up after the creation of the Synchronicity album and that although they have released several live albums and compilations and even gone on a reunion tour, that they have never gone back into the studio to try to continue the band’s career. One may find, though, looking on streaming services, that they have an album titled Flexible Strategies that was released in 2018, and may wonder what sort of beast this project happens to be. Though there is no wikipedia page as I write this for this particular cd, it was a disk in the box set that the Police released that year for B-sides and rarities [1], and so this particular album represents the Police’s attempt to provide a complete discography and it is put separate because the album’s tracks–or most of them at least–had not appeared in streaming services that focus on the Police’s albums and not on their singles. Are these rarities and b-sides worthwhile, though? Let’s find out.

The collection begins with “Dead End Job,” which is a pop-punk experimental track with pretty basic but relevant personal lyrics that express the desires of the band members to avoid dead end jobs and be able to have career success as musicians. “Landlord” is a punkish dismissal of the landlord, an expression of lower class resentment which is pretty common. “Visions Of The Night” is a rather critical look at a nightmarish misunderstanding of who is to inherit the earth. “Friends” is a comic spoken-word track apparently about cannibalism. “A Sermon” is a somewhat presumptuous song about making it from a band that was still in the process of making it. “Shambelle” is a lengthy and somewhat basic but no less enjoyable instrumental track for that. “Flexible Strategies” is a basic instrumental track that was tossed off rather quickly in the studio, but it has an interesting jazzy feel to it. “Low Life” is a surprisingly laid-back ode to the violence of the darker side of town. “Murder By Numbers” is a dark and spare song about murder, and was a standout album track on “Synchronicity.” “Truth Hits Everybody (remix)” is apparently a Sting demo that slows down a track from “Outlandos D’Amour” about what appears to be a sort of mental break when facing a painful truth. “Someone To Talk To” is a somewhat melancholy song about seeking to someone to communicate with in the face of difficulties in relationships with some sax overdubs. “Once Upon A Daydream” is a nightmarish account of a doomed relationship between two young people.

As is often the case when one listens to b-sides, there is a reason why these songs were the b-sides and not the hits. None of these songs, for example, stand up to the very best of the work of the Police. Yet the tracks in general are at least of the level of the album tracks of the early period of the Police, in that if they are not absolutely essential they are generally enjoyable enough. None of the tracks here is a disgrace, or as cringeworthy as “Mother,” for example. Two of the songs, after all, appeared as album tracks for the band and it is little surprise that they are among the standouts here. The best songs here seem to be clustered towards the end, but everything after “Low Life” is probably something that any Police fan would really enjoy listening to when in the mood for obscure Police songs and the early songs in the album are at least interesting enough to listen to once to see what the collection is like as a whole.

[1] Thanks to Police wiki, here are the details for the release history of the tracks on this compilation:

Dead End Job – b-side to “Can’t Stand Losing You”
Landlord – b-side to “Message In A Bottle”
Visions Of The Night – b-side to “Walking On The Moon”
Friends – b-side to “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” (UK) and “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” (US)
A Sermon – b-side to De Do Do Do De Da Da Da (UK, Netherlands) and “Don’t Stand So Close To Me (US)
Shambelle – b-side to “Invisible Sun” (UK)
Flexible Strategies – b-side to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (UK), “Invisible Sun (Netherlands), and “Spirits In The Material World” (US)
Low Life – b-side to “Spirits In The Material World (everywhere other than the US)
Murder By Numbers – album track on “Synchronicity” and b-side to “Every Breath You Take” (UK)
Truth Hits Everybody – b-side to “Every Breath You Take” (UK) and “Synchronicity II” (Netherlands)
Someone To Talk To – b-side to “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (UK)
Once Upon A Daydream – b-side to “Synchronicity II” (UK) and “King Of Pain” (Netherlands, France)

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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