Elvis Costello once mocked Sting for announcing to the world he had just written a subversive song, thereby violating the first law of subversion. About the only subversive thing you could say about the resulting “Invisible Sun” is that it ripped off its only hook from the “o-re-o” chant in The Wizard of Oz. But now, more than 20 years later, Sting turns in a truly subversive album, even more scandalous than Ten Summoner’s Tales, his self-enforced attempt at being comical.
Packaged to look like an excursion into Celine Dion-etics, Sacred Love is the kind of album routinely purchased by doofs who shun rock because they’re afraid it might make them look stupid, so the more Third World instrumentation and lite jazz you piffle on the tracks, the smarter they think it is. Sting wanted an academic audience and that’s why he dismantled the Police before the other guys lowered the band’s collective IQ with songs like “Miss Gradenko” and “Mother.” But won’t his fans be surprised that — Patrick Stewart looks to the contrary — the King of Pain has returned to his dyed dumb-blond punk roots!
Don’t believe it? Check out the adult-contemptuous opener “Inside” — which doesn’t rock but rages like only a crazy rich man can. Here’s Sting to tell you things about love you’ll never find inside a Hallmark card. “Love is a violent star, a tide of destruction … love is a violation, a mutilation, capitulation, love is annihilation.” Whoa, not even Celine would liken the power of love to a star wars defense system, but Gordon’s heart still goes on, inviting his lover to accelerate, mutilate, incarcerate, conjugate and yes, even impregnate him, among other things. His belly now bulging with more action verbs than you’ll see in a year of Junior Jumbles, the former teacher somehow failed to realize how unnecessary his plea to “humiliate me” has now become.
So why do people hate Sting with a special disdain they usually reserve for the DMV? He’s nowhere near as detestable as Phil Collins and his used condom full of musical ideas, yet because Sting is so ponderous about every grain of sand, you just wanna dump the whole Sahara on him. Take track six, “Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing),” a smarmy ode about a poor boy hotwiring a millionaire’s car which sounds like a Buick jingle waiting to happen. Even as a car thief, Sting can’t stop his overanalysis of the situation, imagining the adulterous affair the previous owner must’ve been engaged in, the contents of their small intestines as they ate their clandestine dinner, the Lemon Pledge under his wife’s fingernails — Sting does everything but sit on their faces and guess their weight in doughnuts. No, he’s not much of a gripping storyteller and what better proof than an excerpt of his just-published memoir? As a lad, he caught his mum shagging the milkman, an employee of his dad, yet even this harrowing human moment he renders into bad English lit: “This is the trench warfare of our childhood, as my brother Phil and I sit out the poisonous clouds of abuse that explode above our heads.”
Maybe Sting really said all he really needed to in “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” Judging by that benchmark, this is just plain doo doo.
E-mail Serene Dominic at email@example.com.