Brothers In Arms

Dire Straits

Warner Brothers, 1985

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Although they had moderate success prior to this with “Sultans Of Swing” and a few albums that didn’t make much impact, nothing really prepared Dire Straits for the huge commercial success of “Money For Nothing” and its parent album, Brothers In Arms.

Yet this record is truly an anomaly in the Straits catalog, sounding little like they had released up to that point. While they were always more of a groove band with hints of art rock and country, Brothers In Arms finds the band shortening their songs, adding overt pop elements and stripping back the diversity and virtuosity that marked their better songs.

“So Far Away” is a pleasant, if downbeat, opener, getting by on a bluesy riff and a bar band feel – good for those smoky late nights. It quickly veers into the outright pop rock of “Money For Nothing,” the well-known sardonic attack on both MTV and the pre-washed readymade talent-free hacks that became millionaires by being pretty singing a crap song somebody wrote for them (“The little faggot is a millionaire,” sneers guitarist/singer Mark Knopfler. “Look at that mama, she got it stickin’ in the camera / Man, we could have some fun”). my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In its full length, this is eight and a half minutes of epic pop, starting with a slow keyboard crawl and the slogan “I Want My MTV” being repeated, until the brawny guitars and scaled back drums come in. At heart a groove band, Dire Straits is able to sustain the mood for the entire song, and it remains one of their better moments, even if you’ve heard it many times on the radio already.

This one then segues into the jaunty “Walk Of Life,” with a cheesy keyboard riff and boogie drum beat anchoring the song, which probably also has Knopfler’s most cheerful vocals ever. It’s a bit jarring musically and lyrically (about the hope of becoming a rock star) coming after the sarcasm of the previous song, but it’s an upbeat toe-tapper that puts a smile on the listener’s face.

Unfortunately, Brothers In Arms fails to really catch fire after these three. The rest of the songs are all close to six minutes long but fail to really develop hooks, choosing instead slow-burning grooves that don’t go anywhere and certainly don’t sound like the first three cuts. But there are some highlights for fans; “The Man’s Too Strong” is a strong and genuine country/folk tune and “One World” matches Knopfler’s sardonic words to a funky bass riff, although the wimpy keyboard break keeps the song from being a classic.

This dichotomy keeps the album from finding a consistent tone. Fans of the singles will be turned off by the rest of the music and fans of Dire Straits up to this point will be turned off by the relatively pandering singles but love the mood of the rest of the music. But because there is something for everyone, this is probably the best place to start when digging in to the back Dire Straits catalog, and it certainly is one of the more interesting albums of 1985.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+



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