This is, in my opinion, the best album of 1983. No, Thriller is not on my list.
Sting has the ability to write meaningful, often intellectual lyrics and wrap them in tasty musical phrases. I think he was at his peak on this album, though there have been many bright points in his career since The Police broke up.
In "Synchronicity I," he lays out the premise of the album, describing Jung's concept of synchronicity in lyrical form. For those who are not simply caught up in the driving rhythm, there lies a clue as to some of the issues Sting will be addressing later in the album. It is not exactly a concept album, but it does have recurring themes of coincidence, desperation, possessiveness and friction. Later, at the end of what used to be Side 1, they pull out "Synchronicity II," a slice-of-life illustration of the concepts presented in the first song. Sting's use of metaphor, simile and allusion in this song is appropriate and challenging. The language is tight, and you get a real sense of the plight of a frustrated factory worker who has been pushed to his limit. The end of the song leaves you hanging, but with foreshadowing of what happens next.
Other bright spots on the album include "Miss Gradenko," a bouncy tune penned by Stewart Copeland and "King of Pain," an exercise in morbid metaphor. I have decided not to include "Every Breath You Take" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" in the hot tracks simply because of their sheer frequency of play. For me, they have lost much of their appeal because I have heard them too much. To be fair, though, there is not a bad track on the album -- with the possible exception of Andy Summers' "Mother." This is one of those songs that you either hate or love, depending on what your initial feeling is. In my opinion, this song does not fit in well with the musical feel of the rest of the album at all, and should have been left off. I'm not knocking Summers' musical or compositional skills; I have heard a lot of great work from him, and he does an excellent job on the music for "Murder by Numbers" later on the CD (this track was not on the original vinyl), but "Mother" just rubs me the wrong way and has for nearly 15 years.
I mentioned tension earlier. I think the subject matter of this album was perfect for the playing styles of the band, and that is part of why it was so successful. In an interview recently, Sting pointed out that there was always tension between the three band members because of their individual playing styles. In particular, Stewart Copeland likes to play slightly ahead of the beat, creating a driving urgency in the music. Sting, on the other hand, likes to play slightly behind the beat. This dichotomy often works very well, particularly on the songs where tension is a lyrical element. If the band would have been able to resolve their musical style differences, they might not produced such a good album.
Rating (out of a possible five):