Monday, June 17, 2013

"Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits (1985)

Fun Fact:Mark Knopfler writes more songs about people singing songs than anybody I can think of.  There are three in a row on this LP.

"I want my MTV."

Songs You Might Have Heard on the Radio (or seen on MTV) from this LP:So Far Away, Money for Nothing, Walk of Life, Brothers in Arms

"Brothers in Arms" insists on being an eighties album.  At the time it was released, it was resolvedly grounded absolutely in its time.  When people think about the big hits from this LP, they think of the technology of the time.  I want to point at right here and now that there's a helluva lot more going on here than just Reagonomics and Max Headroom.

But it seems Dires Straits doesn't want us to think about that because they (or somebody, but Mark Knopfler is the first producer listed) force fed it to us when "Brothers in Arms" came out.

The best example and worst offender here is Walk of Life.  What's the first thing you think of when I mention that song?  Okay, now what's the second?  I don't know the order, but I'll bet good money that the two answers were: that opening synth riff and that great, iconic video.  And I have to admit, they both hooked me and reeled me in every time it came on the tube.  Let's face it, sports bloopers were awesome in the days before "America's Funniest Home Videos," and that's just one of those primordial sequences of notes that grabs you.

But here's the thing -- all of the technology overshadows some other (really great) aspects of that song.  For starters, it's an infectious twelve-bar guitar shuffle.  It also has some incredible lyrics.  For your reading enjoyment: "after all the violence and double talk, there's just a song in all the trouble and the strife."  See what I mean?  I have sung that line probably over a hundred times, but I had never processed it until I read it in the liner notes today -- and all because of that infectious keyboard melody.

So I do have to concede that all that tech makes for a really fun experience.

Still, The Man's Too Strong never had a video and it doesn't have much at all in the way of synths, but it does have TWO VERY ANGRY GUITARS.  And it's hands down my favorite cut.  You should go listen to it right now.  I'll wait.  Yeah, you can't beat The Man's Too Strong.

...until you get to Brothers in Arms.  And it turns out to be an astounding marriage of guitars and keyboards -- registering a whopping 9.2 Pinks on the Floyd scale.  Each instrument elevates and amplifies the other, until they pierce your soul in beauteous rapture.  Brothers in Arms is a phenomenal song, and it's not even about people who sing songs.

So, is it an album?  Yes.  Say what you want about the synths (and the sax -- a sax can damn near ruin a song in a sixteenth note), but this thing is clearly one man's vision.

Up next, we check out a one-hit rocker from the seventies.  It's "All American Boy" by Rick Derringer.  Something tells me it'll be heavy on the Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo...

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