Dire Straits

Dire Straits

Arriving in 1978, at a time when punk and new wave served as the cutting edge, Mark Knopfler and Co. sounded like neo-classicists with serious debts to Bob Dylan and J.J. Cale, British pub-rock and sober, judicious instrumentation. Their sense of economy sounded incredibly straight-laced in the face of punk’s anarchic attack. Yet, it’s exactly this refusal to pay attention to current fads and styles that make Dire Straits’ debut album such a singular and timeless achievement. Mark Knopfler was a flawless guitar-picker, turning country influences into jazz runs and embracing the “folk” in his rock. “Sultans of Swing” was, deservedly, the hit, with its impossible to ignore finger-tapping gallop, but “Water of Love,” “Down to the Waterline” and “Wild West End” held somber, engrossing vibes that weren’t easily ignored as well. “Setting Me Up” and “Southbound Again” serve up rockabilly with a Stones-like pulse. “Six Blade Knife” re-imagines Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks’ ballads with a cynical menace hiding in the alleyway outside. “In the Gallery” casts Knopfler as an accomplished student of Ry Cooder.


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