Monday, August 9, 2010

Albums2010 #23: Brothers In Arms

What can I say about Dire Straits? It's like a smooth, ice cold beer after a hard day at the office. Their music is nothing particularly fancy, it's nice, laid back and bluesy. Formed in the late 70s by brothers Mark and David Knopfler, Dire Straits went for a more stripped down, laid back sounds moving against the more bombastic sounds of 70s stadium rock and interestingly enough, against the hard driving sound of punk that was emerging at the time.

What makes that notion interesting is the fact that while punk bands were moving against mainstream rock in a loud, angry way, Dire Straits went for a more, shall we say, chillaxed route and it worked. Per the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, The Brothers Knopfler would actually ask pub owners to turn down the volume, so people could talk and converse while they played. These guys seem laid back, love their blues and it shows in their music, especially with Brothers In Arms, probably their most well-known album and there are so many good songs to choose from with this one.

'Money For Nothing' was the song that put Dire Straits in the forefront of the music video era and even though the lyrics may seem a little dated and certainly embodied the excesses of the 1980s in many respects, it still works nearly three decades after the fact as a damn good song. 'Walk Of Life' is another well-known Dire Straits song that can be played again and again, but to me, it's the title track 'Brothers In Arms' that stands out as the embodiment of the stripped down, laid back, understated glory of the music of Dire Straits. Aaron Sorkin used this song with devastating effect at the climax of the Second Season Finale of 'The West Wing' (Two Cathedrals ranks as probably the finest hour of television I've ever seen even today.) and it's quiet and amazingly powerful at the same time and it proves to be the soul of the album.

Dire Straits had other great albums and other great songs, but 'Brothers In Arms' is probably the Ace in their very stacked deck of laid back blues. (Other faves of mine: 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Water Of Love') and eventually Mark Knopfler broke up the band and went solo, with his distinctive voice and guitar chops and did extremely well for himself. (On a side note: I have a deep appreciation for unique voices and the ability to play some guitar, hence my love of Tom Waits, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Clapton, etc and Mark Knopfler didn't just 'do well for himself' he ranks, in my book as one of the foremost under appreciated guitar gurus of all time and has a gravelly, raspy voice that almost, but not quite reaches the perfect imperfection of Tom Waits.)

Overall: If you like laid back blues with some wicked guitar work ('Lady Writer' and 'Sultans of Swing') then Dire Straits is the band for you- and if you're a fan of the music of the 1980s, then 'Brothers In Arms' a must have album and Dire Straits is a must listen-to band.

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