Brothers In Arms

Dire Straits

Warner Brothers, 1985

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on October 15, 1996]

Yeah, yeah, yeah—here it is, the Dire Straits album with "Money for Nothing" on it. Big deal. A zillion self-gratifying rotations on MTV gradually reduced this terrific album to a platform for a brainless video which succeeded primarily in obscuring the song's potent ironic bite from 95 percent of its audience. Well, let's see if we can't cut through the by-now quite aged hype for a few seconds here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first step is to admit that "MFN" has a rippingly good guitar hook—we're talking guaranteed airplay, regardless of the self-mocking nature of the lyric. But Dire Straits singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-mastermind Mark Knopfler has consistently been commercially aware enough to throw at least one rollicking, bitingly funny rocker onto every album that he's otherwise filled with dense, quirky meditations on shady characters and distant lovers. The crime is that the ubiquitous "MFN" barely ranks among the highlights of this moody bestseller.

On the other hand, if it took a little "money for nothing and chicks for free" to have subtly powerful, brilliantly-crafted music like "Ride Across the River," "Your Latest Trick" and "The Man's Too Strong" reach a wide audience, maybe it was worth it. What rankles is that the effortless precision of Knopfler's nimble guitar playing and brooding vocal delivery on tunes like the above and the gorgeous title track has long since lost out to the flash and thunder of The Big Single. On the entire album, only the smolders-but-never-catches “Why Worry” (an over-indulgent 8:31) and the snaky yet somehow still lackluster “One World” fall short of this high standard.

In the end, you're left wondering what Knopfler himself thought (and thinks still) of the MTV hoopla that somewhat overwhelmed Brothers in Arms. It's actually easy to imagine him chuckling appreciatively at the irony involved—after all, he's made a career on it, in more ways than one.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+



© 2013 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.