see also... U2
Out of the stadium-stompers of the 1980s, Dire Straits have perhaps got the worst rap. While U2 managed to hang on to their cool, the disbanded Dire Straits have been relatively forgotten as music for suburban dads. Although their polished rootsy sound, based on Mark Knopfler's signature blues-licked guitar and throaty nasal vocals, had never really been cool.
"Love Over Gold" was the closest they came to progressive rock. The 14-minute "Telegraph Road" is a sweepingly romantic personal portrait of the grey industrial misery of 1970s and early 1980s Britain. From the lush, pristinely-produced classical piano introduction, through those lengthy blues-rock instrumentals, it maintains enough control to fit its length without dragging.
"Private Investigations" must have been Dire Straits' most beautiful and ingeniously-constructed piece. It's built around a central song in which Knopfler mutters resignedly over a supremely lyrical dobro acoustic guitar melody. This is offset wonderfully by some spooky sections of surrounding darkness, and a Chinese water-torture of a repeated bass note. The little splashes of piano at the beginning finally coalesce into a magnificent six-note theme in the closing section. Using silence to effect like few other songs, it's not too far from the dynamic control of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".
The three tracks on the flip side cement their polished mid-tempo sound. The ironically perky "Industrial Disease" lends a goofy tone to Knopfler's political satire. The delicately romantic acoustica of "Love over Gold" foreshadows the haunting title track from "Brothers in Arms", and ends with a spaciously mellow vibraphone solo. "It Never Rains" contains the album's only real moments of plodding, as it goes on for too long without any variation.
Probably the only essential Dire Straits album, as while the better-known "Brothers in Arms" had its moments, it tended to be stifled by its polish.
April 2, 2005