Here's a "reviewer phrase" that I've never used before: sui generis. I think it's Latin for "smarty pants, they are," or something like that. It seems to show up when a writer is trying to say that an artist is unique. Despite the needlessly fancy language, the writers do occasionally have a point. Think about when Mark Knopfler's Dire Straits first broke onto the scene way back in 1978. Right in the middle of disco's shiny noise, "Sultans Of Swing" hit the airwaves with a sound that nobody had ever heard before.
Of course, Knopfler and his band went on to become huge, first as this quirky rock band, then as MTV media darlings. Despite the turns taken by Dire Straights, most of Knopfler's music has allowed his love of folk and roots music to show through. With the varied styles displayed on his solo projects and film music, Knopfler the guitar hero tends toward the Ry Cooder end of the spectrum. That is, he's a slave to the song and the style, not necessarily the instrumental fireworks.
Kill To Get Crimson finds Knopfler weaving his signature electric guitar lines through some fine compositions. Whether it be the lilting "Scaffolder's Wife" (featuring his gorgeous baritone accentuated by some cool flute lines and vibraphone accents), the songwriting tale of "Madame Geneva's," or the slinky "Punish The Monkey," Knopfler seems to have an instinct for playing just the right notes. That description of the man has turned into something of a cliche but hey, there's a lot of truth in it.
My absolute favorite parts of this record come on the songs written in waltz time. In particular "Heart Full Of Holes," a folk song whose sad tale is made all the more poignant by a chorus that absolutely soars with accordions and hope. If used in a movie, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the camera panning up and away from the earth as the film's protagonist deals with the latest of life's difficulties. Great stuff.
It's been interesting to see Knopler's progression over the years. Though many of the styles he's worked in were probably with him all along, it's nice to see that he shows no signs of running out of ideas.
And yes, I am saying that Mark Knopfler is one of a kind. I'm just not trying to be a smarty pants about it.