CD Review of Kill to Get Crimson by Mark Knopfler
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Paul Brady, J.J. Cale, Eric Clapton
Label
Warner Bros.
Mark Knopfler:
Kill to Get Crimson

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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ince laying Dire Straits to rest in 1995, Mark Knopfler has released five solo albums and one collection of duets with Emmylou Harris – a breakneck creative pace not only when compared with Knopfler’s peers, many of whom can scarcely be bothered to eke out a new album twice a decade, but also when held alongside Dire Straits, which released six studio albums in 13 years. If you look at the numbers, it would seem as if being freed from the constraints of his old band had sparked a creative rebirth for Knopfler – that he was finally allowed to express himself in new and exciting ways.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course; Knopfler’s music may be many things – and we’ll get to them in a minute – but “exciting” rarely numbers among them. Really, the most fascinating thing about Kill to Get Crimson is that Knopfler still has a major-label recording contract; given that his solo albums have sold roughly one squintillionth of what Dire Straits’ did, and given that Knopfler churns out new records with workmanlike regularity, he seemed like a safe bet for indie exile years ago.

Whatever’s keeping him safely ensconced in the industry’s bosom seems to agree with him. Crimson is everything you’d expect from a Mark Knopfler album in 2007: relaxed, casual, run through with tasteful guitar filigrees, and – to the casual listener, anyway – boring as fuck. Put another way, if you thought Dire Straits’ finest moments began and ended with “Money for Nothing” and “Walk of Life,” don’t even bother reading the rest of this review; no matter how fervently some of his fans may wish otherwise, Knopfler long ago settled into a sleepy groove, and he seems quite content to stay there.

This doesn’t mean Kill to Get Crimson is a bad album, or even a dull one – it just means you need to have the ear, and the patience, to look below the surface in order to find out otherwise. They might sound mostly the same on the surface, but many of Knopfler’s songs are really finely etched character studies of working-class stiffs, and the cast he’s assembled for Crimson does not disappoint; at various points throughout the album, he assumes the guise of a tattoo artist, a pawnshop broker, and a frustrated, middle-aged painter, and takes a detour to reminisce about the horror of middle-school dancing in the bargain.

Lyrically and musically, Knopfler’s touch remains as light and deft as ever – to beat a hackneyed phrase further into the ground, these songs fit as comfortably as an old pair of jeans. Like an old pair of jeans, however, they’re likely to go unnoticed and/or unappreciated by most. If you’ve got room in your life for a deceptively simple set of songs that will reward patient listens, seek out Kill to Get Crimson. Otherwise, the latest Dire Straits best-of will probably suit you just fine.

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