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Music Review: Mark Knopfler – Kill To Get Crimson

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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.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    My only complaint is that I had to google to find out that it was a new release. I’m complaining because you usually point out alot of relative information in your wonderful reviews about alot of eclectic & obscure material, not that Mr. Knopfler is obscure but he is abit ‘under the radar’ if you don’t follow his work. I will definitely check it out. I think it was Golden Heart that showcased his talent on guitar, for me.

    SO, get with it Mark… This review was real crappy & just doesn’t cut it for this type of site with all of its superior cabal!! *Smirk* j.k.

  • right! i also forgot to mention that this music should be categorized at melodic death british folk americana stuff.


  • All right, Brian, I’ve stood by and watched you horn in on my turf as the official Saleski antagonist long enough. This will not do! 😉

    Really nice review, Mark. I haven’t gotten to listen to this disc as many times as I’d like and you’ve given me some things to listen for when I go back to it. I don’t know when that will be, as Magic owns me at the moment, but…

  • whatayamean there josh? you’ve already bitched me out for comma placement issues. freaking editors.

  • Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty and Mark Knopfler discs all on the same day? AMAZING! Great review, can’t wait to buy it.

  • I’m kind of in the same boat as Josh – great album, haven’t given it the time it deserves yet. With guys like Knopfler, I never feel rushed to envelope myself within their albums. They find their way into my life little by little. Rushing things with music like this for me tends to just kind of blow it. I’ve got lots of time for Kill to win me over – I have no doubt it will.

  • Just gave it my first listen moments ago. Really enjoyed it. Very laid back and easy to digest while playing on tiny speakers while surfing (which is how I just listened to it.) But even then I could hear there is a lot more going on that deserves to be listened to while actually paying attention.

  • Brian M

    Oh my.

    I’ve been a fan of Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler since the first time I heard “Sultans of Swing” all those years ago. Most, not all but most, of Knopflers (groups and solo) material has been very very good and I’ve always looked forward to his next release.

    All I can say is “what happened here?” I know I’m the dissenting voice but I’m afraid “Kill To Get Crimson” is worse than bad – it’s boring.

    I’m glad you guys like it and I hope, for me, this is just a hiccup.

  • I’m revisiting both this review and the album at present.

  • Waw great song