Sting's musical career over the last decade has certainly been varied; he's explored folk and classical music along with his Newcastle roots during his creative journey. After a sojourn, he returns with his first 'rock' album in ten years. To just label the album as typically would be too simplistic. Whilst this album plugs back in his guitar and has, in places, a more commercial sound - like the albums rocky opener, I can't stop thinking about you, it's more sophisticated and poetic.
50,000's vibrant chorus is an afterthought, the verses are straight out of the works of Cohen with a focus on the message rather than the melody. It's a fitting lament to the talent that we have lost this year as Sting melancholically sings, "another obituary in the paper today, one more for the list of those who’ve already fallen, another one of our comrades is taken down, like so many others of our calling." It's an eloquent eulogy for the creatives annus horribilis . After reflecting on his own mortality he faces another fact 'rock stars don't die they only fade away' and the track suitably fades out at its symbolic conclusion.
Another track, Heading South On The Great North Road, has Sting's Gordie vernacular ringing out as he sings a paean to travelling from the north or England to the south in search of a better life. The acoustic track combines the classical and folk tone that we came to draw from his other projects. Drawing some comparison, Inshallah charts the perilous journey of Syrian refugees travelling across the sea of uncertainty in search of hope. Sting gives the track a middle eastern flavour with the melismatic chorus and hesitant rhythms of the doumbek.
Petrol Head cranks things back up with a traditional rock/ blues sound and One Fine Day is a typically optimistic sounding Sting track. The Empty Chair (new version) is another moving and evocative track of loss inspired by the execution of photojournalist James Foley. The heartfelt impassioned song is the final track of the album and couldn't be more different than the opener. Both tracks bookend the album perfectly and just go to show how much Sting has evolved as an artist using his entire musical heritage to make this album.
With so many varied influences to draw from, Stings latest album may be given the rock tag, but don't be fooled into thinking it's simply a guitar and drum based album, life has imbued Sting's latest body of work with so much more.
Groupie Rating: 4/5