Sting's new album is aptly titled “The Bridge” — we need one. In almost every song there is water.
It is rushing in the opening song, in the form of rain in another and as a cold grey sea in a third. Water is in a glass the parched singer asks for in the second song and in mist in the seventh. The title song tells of a swollen river, and the fields are drowned.
“The Bridge” is a moody and varied collection in an unmoored time, with nods to Scripture, ancient allegories and malevolent characters. It's a strong album from a singer-songwriter who sees warning signs ahead. “This is my lonely mission/To wake the world up to its fate,” Sting sings.
The outlier is the first single, “If It’s Love,” a relentlessly cheerful tune with happy whistling, a Broadway-like song delivered with a smile that seems to surprise even the singer who created it (“The reason’s hard for me to trace,” Sting acknowledges).
Elsewhere is dread and a steady menace. One of Sting's wastrel characters wakes up in a married woman's bed in “The Bells of St. Thomas” and notes drily of “The last days of judgement upon us.”
In the Celtic-tinged "The Hills on the Border," a malevolent spirit tempts a traveler, and a husband confronts a cheating spouse in the murky synth-laden “Loving You,” singing “I pray the waters of forgiveness/Will rain down on you and me.”
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Repeated listens reveal connections between songs. The terrifically funky “Rushing Water” references the Book of Numbers, which is the title of the third song. A hammer to the head is repeated in “Rushing Water” and “The Bells of St. Thomas.”
And, of course, water is everywhere. Even the bonus tracks are drenched with it: the traditional “Waters of Tyne" and a cover of ”(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay." It is an album to raise a glass — of anything but water — and cheer.