Walking in Your Footsteps

Local musicians and writers weigh in on the Police's legacy in St. Louis -- then and now.

"If you listen to most styles of music," Williams says, "especially black music, what defines it is the rhythm section. The Police were good at that: Andy Summers could do what-the-fuck-ever over it, but it always sounded like reggae because of the rhythm section."

Williams thinks that few bands sound like the Police these days because few bands can sound like the Police — or they're afraid that excessive technical skill could hurt their careers. "It's very tricky to have that kind of musicianship and style, and still write pop songs," he says. "No matter how catchy the Police were, they were gonna play. You don't hear drummers play like that anymore. It reminds me of this Stevie Wonder record I was listening to the other day — there were just runs and riffs all over the place."

Riddle of Steel's Elstner agrees that the Police were too singular and too skilled to be easily imitated. "It's testament to the uniqueness of the Police," he says. "What they did was pretty specific: white reggae meets intelligent power pop, on the 'prog' tip. If you're a band that has any class, you know you can't rip them off totally, because it would be incredibly obvious. But I do think you can get away with nicking a bit here and there."

Even during their heyday, Scariano says, only a few bands dared try to ride the Police's coattails. "After Men at Work and the Outfield had their little success, people drew a line in the sand at what they would accept in regard to that sound. A lot of musicians tried to play like them, but figured it was futile to try to write music exactly like them — does that make sense?"

It makes perfect sense to Mike Cracchiolo. He sings and plays bass for the Bureau, bringing some of his personal Police influence to their moody dance-rock, but rarely writing songs like theirs. Like many pro-Police musicians, Cracchiolo's prone to breaking down exactly what he likes about each member of the trio. But to him, the band was far more than the sum of its parts.

"They could be every bit as dark and angry as Joy Division," he says. "'Invisible Sun' is so stripped-down: just two chords, a synth bassline and the simplest drumbeat Stewart Copeland ever played." Cracchiolo also cites "Synchronicity II" (which the Bureau has covered live) as "an almost transcendent experience for me. Just such a powerful song: dark, melodic, driving. The synchronicity between the Loch Ness monster attacking and this guy's horrible suburban existence — what an esoteric concept for a pop song, but what an amazing success. That was one of my first favorite songs, the song that made me want to play bass. When it would come on the radio, I'd put my head right by the speaker and listen to the bassline.

"All those songs are incredibly catchy, but they were never just some pop band. They were really ballsy players, and there were really driving rhythms behind those melodies, which to me epitomizes what being a great band is all about."

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