Dire Straits: Brothers in arms
29/07/11 || Habakuk
Fucken Dire Straits? Yes, we are that conformist. Now watch in awe as GD company charges Internet Hill with bayonets fixed and a “Global Conformation!” on our lips, flying the chameleon flag high. Yep, “Brothers in arms” probably is as mainstream as it gets. The facts: It has sold over 30 million copies. It’s mostly quiet guitar rock. There are two keyboarders credited. It’s not one of Venom’s obscure influences, not even a side-project of Tom G. Warrior and his well-behaved lost twin brother, but your mom turns up the volume when a song off this comes up in corporate radio. ‘The fuck was I thinking?
Fucken Dire Straits!
9. This is an exercise in great songwriting. It’s not completely perfect, so let’s not get all crazy from the get-go. That comes with the diversity though, I guess. There’s definitely “something for everybody” on here, but whatever that particular something is, it’ll be pretty great for what it is. For example, there is basically only one real riff-driven song on this album, and the riffs in question are absolutely stellar. You know what I’m talking about, and you’ve rocked out to “Money for nothing” just like anybody else. As I said, I definitely don’t enjoy all songs to the same degree, but 8 out of 9 definitely have at least a solid right to exist, each with bonus points in different situations. For example, “Walk of life” when you’re so happy that you don’t even mind about acting all gay, or “Your latest trick” when filming a softporn movie. It will happen, and you better be prepared songwise, young fella. In general though, most tunes are more on the quiet, bluesy side, but with a quality level like on display, I’m fine with everything. Anyway, choice cuts that should be checked out regardless of circumstance include the aforementioned “Money for nothing”, the title track and “The man’s too strong”.
10. Listen to this album on headphones and tell me it isn’t brilliantly produced. In terms of dynamics (LOOKING AT YOU LOUDNESS WAR) and a pristine sound, every nuance in tone, every pluck of the string is captured perfectly. Even in parts where there is “not much” going on technically, it always sounds warm and complete, which is oftentimes owed to subtly underlying keyboards that never reach the realms of annoyance metal elevated them to – or simply the fact that every note and every drum hit is allowed to count. The mentioned subtlety also allows for the album to be permeated by a very basic “man with a guitar” sense. Which leads us to…
10. And thou shalt not entertain any doubts here. Take notes, Yngwie Malmsteen and all you fucken tweedly-weedly metal guitarists: Your speed is in vain. In fact, it is possible to achieve maximum effect with absolutely minimal means. Yes, that is a question of skill. Moreover, a question of feeling your instrument. Urrgh, feeling! Flowers and shit included. The notion of a rhythm guitar is virtually absent, and often all Knopfler does is strewing in tiny bits of lead guitar in trade-off with the vocals, and they work spectacularly. He sports an absolute trademark style with incredibly detailed fingerwork: Around the basic notes there is a web of slides, pickups and seemingly “off” strokes that are probably impossible to reproduce or note down accurately. If you ever want to explain to someone why music is more than just notes in a row, play some Mark Knopfler.
In conjunction with the very dynamic sound of his instrument, he makes the album one of the liveliest guitar performances I’ve heard on record. I reckon some Jazzers will disagree violently, but with my metal-based listening habits, that’s how it is. If they don’t live, breathe and chew meturl, I shall not listen to the naysayers. So yeah, Metal as a genre is obviously focusing on totally different aspects in guitar play, but I can only urge everybody with but a slight interest in the instrument to listen to this album, if only for the guitars. Me, I’m again and again amazed by the sheer talent on display.
9. That last sentence could go here just as well. Mark Knopfler has an inimitable, distinctive voice that is on the other hand versatile enough to fit into any kind of song situation. Such as having the blues, going all blue collar on us or being a melancholic war machine. Seriously though, these are some great, great vocals.
8. The 4-string sound here is to clean bass what “Horrified” is to fuzz bass. Without much rhythm work on guitar, bass is a big element of propelling the songs, and with crystal clear yet warm notes does a lot more than just fill in. A shining moment (if you want to call it that) despite the very smooth and humble delivery, is obviously the all-slap “One world” which the bass endows with a strong eighties feel. Obviously this is not a bass album, so there is a big deal of root notes play – but since that’s exactly what’s required for the songs, no problem at all.
7. There really isn’t much about the drums you haven’t heard before (You’re a SICKDRVMMER watcher, after all!), but there’s nothing to criticize either. Rather low-key, but rock solid. They had their original drummer come in for the intro to “Money for nothing” (reason: unknown), whereas the rest was played by another dude. That’s about the most noteworthy thing to say.
9. Hold it, I thought war lyrics were restricted to metal bands? In fact, there are some of the best war-related lyrics I’ve read on display here, which make Iron Maiden, Running Wild, Slayer, and even Bolt Thrower in their finest hours seem nothing but clumsy and juvenile. Whoa, are we entering grown-up territory here? Well, it might almost sound like it, but not quite. Happy-go-lucky “Walk of life” and the brilliantly observed lyrics of “Money for nothing” show that these guys didn’t consider themselves all serious introspective rock artisans in the end. They even had to censor a few “faggot”-lines away later down the line, how’s that for bad-assery? And yeah, of course no rock album is complete without some (lost) love lyricism, so sure as hell the ‘Straits deliver on that front.
Okay, here’s a fucken zero: 0.
7. Considering how quick and dirty a lot of re-released albums have been washed out to the public, this 1996 edition is almost great. Lyrics and credits to go with the more or less standard (but worth reading) third party “appreciation” are what I consider a fair deal, at least.
Overall and ending rant
Picture yourself in 30 years, leaning back in your armchair and thinking back about your past life, gettin’ all emotional inside, you faggot. Good times, bad times, love you found or did not, friends you had, the battles you lost and those you won, that Sodom disc you always wanted to buy but never did, the likes. Think of yourself dusting off that old CD player and putting on this disc with trembling, geriatric fingers. It will be the right one for the moment in all its facets, and you will be one satisfied, old coon. Put it on now, take a trip into the future to reflect on the past… which is now! And you will become a better person. On all levels. It’s exactly that great.
- Released: 1984
- Label: Vertigo
- Website: There is none.
- Mark Knopfler: guitars, vocals
- John Illsley: bass, vocals
- Alan Clark: keyboards
- Guy Fletcher: keyboards, vocals
- Omar Hakim/Terry Williams: drums
- 1. So far away
- 2. Money for nothing
- 3. Walk of life
- 4. Your latest trick
- 5. Why worry
- 6. Ride across the river
- 7. The man’s too strong
- 8. One world
- 9. Brothers in arms