- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003


Sacred Love


Musically speaking, Sting is still in that plush Jaguar in which he famously hawked his surprise hit “Desert Rose” three years ago. His latest, “Sacred Love,” is a silky ride; it’s loaded with gadgets and makes no obnoxious revving noises when you hit the gas. You could suck on the exhaust pipe of this record and not even get a headache.

That is to say, it, like its predecessor, “Brand New Day,” is bland and temperate and limp.

Oh, and there are double-bill collaborations once again, this time with flamenco guitarist Vicente Amigo (on “Send Your Love”) and the overrated, overemotive Mary J. Blige (“Whenever I Say Your Name”).

Once again, gone are all traces of that innovative little trio that Sting once fronted during rock’s new wave, the Police.

The album begins promisingly with “Inside,” on which Sting turns in a soulful vocal performance, but it quickly descends into that spongy realm known as adult-contemporary.

When Sting, about to turn 52, tries to burnish his rock cred, as on “This War,” the result sounds frostily proficient, with all the raw edges compressed into an insipid sheen.

Throughout, Sting, a talented guitarist-bassist, favors the enveloping grooves of the laptop over the live band, and the lyrics, relentlessly wordy, make for bad, syrupy self-help literature. “My heart is ever full of sorrow / We got to move into the future maybe / And think about a new tomorrow,” he drones on “Forget About the Future.”

He can barely spit out the verbose story-song that is “Never Coming Home.”

On “Dead Man’s Rope,” Sting reprises a nugget from “Walking in Your Footsteps,” a song off the brilliant Police album “Synchronicity,” the band’s best and last. The self-tribute only serves to remind one of greatness past.

Sting, ever the thoughtful lyricist, is obsessed with things spiritual on “Sacred Love,” and as that title indicates, he has chosen the path of the happy hedonist. Jesus gets props on “Dead Man’s Rope” — “With hell below me and heaven in the sky above / I’ve been walking, I’ve been walking away from Jesus’ love.”

On the title track, he breezily reflects on Genesis: “I’ve been thinking ‘bout the Bible / I’ve been thinking ‘bout Adam and Eve / I’ve been thinking ‘bout the garden / I’ve been thinking ‘bout the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life / I’ve been thinking ‘bout forbidden fruit.”

But on “Send Your Love,” the album’s snappy first single, padded by techno-world-beat embellishments, Sting reaches a safely worldly conclusion: “There’s no religion but sex and music / There’s no religion that’s right or winning / There’s no religion in the path of hatred / Ain’t no prayer but the one I’m singing.”

Yeah, well, tell that to the crazies who are trying to blow up civilization, would you, Sting, and stop lecturing me? “This War” all but accuses the Bush administration of erecting a police state. “There’s a war on democracy / A war on our dissent.”

Hmmm … sounds more like the Baghdad of, oh, about one year ago than the country where I can buy, say, “Sacred Love.”

This is beside the point, however. Sting used to deliver hard-driving rock with peppy hooks and clever lyrics. His early solo career, steeped in jazz, never lost its accessibility even if it was more than a little pretentious at times.

Now he delivers indistinct, unchallenging mush.

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