Making Movies – Dire Straits

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March 2, 2015 by unclespike218

Was a time when music was a bit more straightforward.

No hint of autotune, no synthesizers, no credits that read “Artist A feat. Artist B and Artist C,” no pandering to a visual medium. Just strap on your guitar, grab the bass, hit the drums on a good steady 4/4 beat each time, and churn out some good reliable tunes. Sing in a low-key manner about the love that got away, or yowl exuberantly about the one that’s just come along. Make it dependable, make it solid, and make it as good as you can with your bar band brothers.

Making Movies exemplifies those simpler times. It’s a nice, succinct 7 songs in around 45 minutes. Made back in 1980, it doesn’t offer any hint that punk, power pop, or new wave was all the rage. Dire Straits knows what it does well, and it sticks to it. (Well, until Brothers in Arms, anyway.)

On their first two albums, Dire Straits was competent and often excellent, but there was always an undercurrent of tedium, and though the boys were passionate about their playing, it wasn’t always compelling; it was great music for a lazy afternoon and a nap. For Making Movies, they brought in the keyboardist for the E Street Band, and the jolt of Springsteenian grandeur and romanticism fits perfectly.

Mark Knopfler’s playing is dependably brilliant throughout. His voice – despite seeming to have a range of a half octave and varying in dynamics from a raspy whisper to a raspy growl – is still remarkably expressive. This is especially the case on the devastating “Romeo and Juliet,” and the brilliant narrative of “Tunnel of Love,” the first two songs and the album’s true highlights. And Knopfler lets the exuberance of a freewheeling, rollerskating girl fill “Skateaway” with contagious bliss.

The sole downsides to this album are its last two numbers; the first five soar. “Solid Rock” is…well, solid and filled with good solos, but lyrically comes up sophomoric. And “Les Boys” is a light cabaret song with borderline-offensive and homophobic lyrics. Aside from the theme suggested by the album’s title – many of these songs could be movies in and of themselves, not to mention referencing movies outright – in which “Les Boys” could be seen as Cabaret, the song is a throwaway.

I have the sterling musical taste of my older sister to thank for this one (as well as Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits and The Trinity Session by the Cowboy Junkies). And after years of barely thinking about it, I decided at some point it would be perfect to have on vinyl. Not a purchase I will ever regret.

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