[Review] The Police: Ghost in the Machine (1981)

The Police add synthesizers and horns on their darkest and most polished album to date.

Kronomyth 4.0: A Sting operation.

When The Police released their fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, I remember thinking that it sounded a lot like a Sting solo album. It turned out I was right, as the prominence of keyboards and horns pointed forward to Sting’s solo music. It is, of course, a brilliant album, but it’s more of a black diamond in their diadem. Even the contributions from Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland are dark this time, as if Sting’s serious mood overshadowed the sessions.

The album produced several hits including Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Spirits in the Material World, Invisible Sun and Secret Journey. It’s a pretty dour set, and the rest of the album isn’t much brighter: Demolition Man, Omega Man, Rehumanize Yourself. That last track at least has a light-hearted melody behind it, suggesting the likeable “Canary in a Coalmine” from their previous album. All those songs—in fact, the entire album—feel energized, but it’s a dark energy at work. Only One World (Not Three) could be called a hopeful song.

Copeland’s propulsive rhythms and Summers’ rich guitar textures are what distinguish this from, say, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. In a sense, the pair are battling against an increasing arsenal of sounds from Sting that now includes bass, synthesizers, horns and vocals. The balance had clearly shifted, and observations that The Police were now Sting’s band probably stung a bit more for Copeland and Summers. That the trio managed to make a great album despite the widening chasm between them is a testament to their professionalism. Still, it’s clear who was the ghost and who was the machine at this point.

Original elpee version

A1. Spirits in the Material World (2:58)
A2. Every Little Things She Does Is Magic (4:20)
A3. Invisible Sun (3:43)
A4. Hungry for Love (2:52)
A5. Demolition Man (5:54)
B1. Too Much Information (3:42)
B2. Rehumanize Yourself (lyrics by Sting/music by Stewart Copeland) (3:10)
B3. One World (Not Three) (4:45)
B4. Omega Man (Andy Summers) (2:47)
B5. Secret Journey (3:32)
B6. Darkness (Stewart Copeland) (3:11)

All songs written by Sting unless noted.

The Players

Stewart Copeland, Sting, Andy Summers with Jean Roussel (keyboards). Produced by The Police and Hugh Padgham.

The Pictures

Art direction by Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff/Mick Haggerty. Art and design by Mick Haggerty.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on October 2, 1981 in the UK, Italy and the Netherlands (A&M, AMLK 63730), the US (A&M, SP/CS-3730), Germany (A&M, 393 730-4), Japan (A&M, AMP-28043) and Yugoslavia (RTB, 2220997). Reached #1 on the UK charts and #2 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1983 in the US (A&M, CD-3730).
  2. Re-released on half-speed mastered elpee in 2018 in the US (Abbey Road Studios, ARHSLP885).
  3. Re-released on ultra high-quality compact disc on August 25, 2021 in Japan (A&M, UICY-40350).

1 thought on “[Review] The Police: Ghost in the Machine (1981)

  1. The album cover confirms your suspicions. The one with the highest hair and the biggest mouth was also the centerpiece.

    Even so, great cover art. I wonder if the original plan was to have just the LCD faces. It might have been an even better cover if they’d done that, and put the artist and album title on a sticker affixed to the shrink wrap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *