It's kind of weird how Outlandos d'Amour just has a couple of monster singles on it like that's nothing special. You just play through the album, oh yeah, there's "Roxanne" and "Can't Stand Losing You", as if it's the most normal thing in the world to have two unkillable rock monster singles on one 39 minute long album. While it's hard to imagine that The Police had no idea what they were getting ready to drop prior to Outlandos release, what's even more fascinating is that those two songs wouldn't make much of a mark until 1979's American tour split the band wide open. In point of fact, the songs initially hurt the album, as the BBC found their subject matter--hookers and killing yourself--to be "objectionable", especially due to the artwork on the single for "Can't Stand Losing You", in which Sting is depicted as following through on the song's suicidal claim. By 1979, sure, it all changed--"Roxanne" ended up being the first of their career's many inescapable singles--but in 1978? They were just another UK band who ended up with a bad boy moniker in a country that was soon to jump on board for 11 years of Margaret Thatcher.
Nowadays, it's normal to view the debut album as a "we'll give you one" proposition--we're living in a music landscape where the tastemakers are less interested in keeping up with the bands of 2007 they lionized as saviors of music, especially when they've tracked down a new sad sack who knows the right keyboard strokes on Garageband. It's all about the story, see--this guy and girl have toiled in obscurity for years, but now, thanks to Myspace, they're going to knock mp3 bloggers on their heads with their first studio deal. Guys like Dylan get a pass, you can ignore U2--they are, after all, making enough money off their fanbase--it's not that talent doesn't count, it's that paying attention to talent for longer than six months is a no-no. Back in '78, people were willing to give a band like The Police had room to grow. Truthfully, they needed it--Outlandos isn't the sort of seamless mix of their jazz/funk/dub/rock sound that they reached on later albums, and some of its speedbumps are confusingly obtuse. (There's car-horns on "Next To You"...why again? The ode-to-sex-doll track "Be My Girl" needs a tone-deaf poem from Andy Summers to belabor the punch line...because?) Quibbles aside though, the exploration of a reggae/punk mash-up had begun, Sting's rock star status was only a Who flick away, and Outlandos was one of 1978's most striking first steps.
-Tucker Stone, 2009
Nobody needs to look that hard to find a Police song off this album, but it took some time for me to track down the greatest 20 second "Roxanne" cover of all time: Eddie Murphy