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Articles Home » 1997 Articles » Strontium 90 - 1997 Police Academy
Strontium 90 - 1997 Police Academy

ARTIST: Strontium 90
ALBUM: Police Academy
LABEL: Pangea
SERIAL: 6 1868 10003
YEAR: 1997


LINEUP: Mike Howlett - bass * Sting - vocals * Stewart Copeland - drums * Andy Summers - guitars

TRACK LISTING: 01 Visions Of The Night * 02 New World Blues * 03 3 O'Clock Blues * 04 Lady Of Delight * 05 Electron Romance * 06 Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic * 07 Towers Tumbled * 08 Electron Romance (Live) * 09 Lady Of Delight (Live)

Hard to believe back in Punk's heyday The Sex Pistols Johnny Rotten secretly loved Van Der Graaf Generator and krautrock heroes Can while snarling to the press how much he hated Pink Floyd. Hypocritical? Contrived? I'd say so. Adding insult to injury depending on your persuasion, the tragic Ian Curtis of beloved post-punkers Joy Division can be seen sporting a Nektar t-shirt in a now infamous 1974 photo which still leaves much of their gloomy hipster fan base as well as naive critics strangely confused. From everything I've bothered to read on the movement from respected writers like Jon Savage and his lengthy but authoritative 'England's Dreaming', not forgetting Simon Reynolds 'Rip It Up And Start Again'; the uninformed can come away with the idea Punk bands lived in a musical vacuum prior to 1976 which of course is not only unrealistic but dishonest. Enter The Police; a band you either love or loathe but whose roots were steeped in the genre that dare not speak its name. As the legend goes a couple years before 'Roxanne' wormed its way into the public's mass consciousness, ex- Gong bassist Mike Howlett was looking to record a demo and caught a young singer/bass player named Sting and his fusion band Last Exit in a Newcastle pub. With Sting on board, Howlett ran into Andy Summers who had previously spent time in Soft Machine and with the late addition of ex-Curved Air drummer Stewart Copeland, a band with an undeniable prog rock pedigree was born - Strontium 90.

The Songs
Strontium 90 in case you were wondering is a highly reactive silvery metal that when applied in nuclear weapons or when involved in a nuclear accident is a big part of radioactive fallout. Probably a more appropriate moniker for a Death Metal outfit but there was no such beast back then and it's just a name right? Anyway, in February 1977 recording began and much of those sessions appear on 'Police Academy'. Now if you are expecting The Police, cool your jets 'cause this ain't it. This is all very much mid-70's hard rock and while 'Visions Of The Night' trundles along at a pretty good clip, there's no mistaking Sting's golden pipes. 'New World Blues' has a psychedelic meets southern rock bent which is a bit of a surprise while '3 O'Clock Blues' is more rough 'n tumble and Rolling Stonesy. 'Lady Of Delight' is more of the same only this time with Summers smoking slide guitar and it's only on 'Electron Romance' that some of the future Police sound starts to show-up with a strong funk and reggae flavor. The peak of the set for most will be the demo of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' which is wistful and acoustic based and a very different dynamic to the upbeat 1981 mega-seller. Rounding out the set is 2 live tracks recorded May 28th, 1977 when Strontium 90 opened for Gong in Paris, France and neither 'Electron Romance' or 'Lady Delight' add anything to the original demo versions.

In Summary
As a fan of the later Police albums and Sting's always interesting solo career, I found 'Police Academy' to be disappointing. You would think anything related to a group of this magnitude would warrant a more thoughtful presentation instead of one backstage photo of Summers and Sting with an underwear clad Howlett. There's no credits (did Sting even play bass on this?) and the band's history is limited to just three paltry paragraphs.

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