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Sting - The Bridge (Album Review)

Friday, 03 December 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Tomoko Itoki

As cliche as it may sound, and it’s almost painful to continue this sentence, Sting’s latest record could easily be a ‘Best Of’ composed entirely of new songs. During the pandemic the singer’s boxed-in subconscious transported him to times and places where memory, experience and fantasy became one claustrophobic blur. With the resultant art reflecting life in lockdown, it’s unsurprising these era-spanning vignettes depict a series of trapped characters striving to find their own bridge over tempestuous waters.

Touching on everything from the frontman’s days with The Police to his time as a purveyor of super-smooth MOR, while also recalling past forays into world music and traditional folk, this pleasantly tuneful offering is clearly the work of a songwriter who knows his craft.And make no mistake about it, this is a painstakingly crafted album that won’t appeal to anyone who likes a little grit in their musical stew.

For those who appreciate polished recordings, however, ‘The Bridge’ is deliciously textured and wonderfully arranged, with everything from organs, synths and saxophone to fiddles and melodeon featuring throughout songs that nimbly hop between genres.

Bound together by a youthful vocal performance that sits front and centre in the mix, each diligently buffed cut boasts a distinct, picturesque identity. 

Prodding out clipped, muted arpeggios, like a less desperate Message In A Bottle, Rushing Water finds someone battling to escape their psychological prison as reverb-drenched choral harmonies and its chest-beating hook instigate the jail break. Showtune pop number If It’s Love, which compares being lovestruck with having an illness, unfurls theatrical string swells, perky handclaps and whistling in a way that’s so darned uplifting you’ll forget how awfully cheesy it is.   

Elsewhere, Loving You’s twisted psychodrama of jealousy and commitment is evoked via a haunting ambient soundscape of dark electronic strokes and harrowing beats, and the autobiographical Harmony Road, about how growing up in a rough neighbourhood stays with you long after you’ve escaped, delivers train-of-thought conversational lines and jazzy horns to conjure melancholic, bittersweet reflection. 

There’s a nice balance between the fictional and personal here as notions of being plagued by misdeeds, fears and emotional incarceration are explored. The Book Of Numbers, which depicts how Oppenheimer struggled to live with his ‘I am become death’ legacy, enthrals as it mixes old west imagery with a sparkling horn-driven chorus. Both the title track and Bells Of St. Thomas, meanwhile, are fittingly sparse, their ruminations on passion and resolve delicately underscored by understated picking. 

Although there’s lots to enjoy about this very accessible and infectious offering, ‘The Bridge’ isn’t quite as good as it thinks it is. Aside from some wince-inducing lyrical clunkers, not to mention the way the traditional ballad of Captain Bateman (registered in 1624) has been given a stylistically inappropriate, confused and lightweight presentation when it could have been a fully-fleshed musical and narrative epic, some of the songs’ simplistic resolutions underwhelm.  

Sting may portray his protagonist’s tribulations in sharp detail, but the insight-free answers and solutions that follow sell short their complexity. Burdening the record with an inescapable aura of self satisfaction, it hamstrings the intent of a mostly enjoyable and well conceived effort, leaving you feeling stranded on the titular walkway when a satisfactory end is within touching distance.

Sting Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri April 15 2022 - LONDON London Palladium
Sat April 16 2022 - LONDON London Palladium
Sun April 17 2022 - LONDON London Palladium
Tue April 19 2022 - LONDON London Palladium
Wed April 20 2022 - LONDON London Palladium
Thu April 21 2022 - LONDON London Palladium

Compare & Buy Sting Tickets at Stereoboard.com.



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