Making Movies

Dire Straits

Warner Brothers, 1980

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


After listening to the disappointing Communiqué from 1979, hearing Dire Straits’ third album, Making Movies, is a welcome change. The difference is immense. While Communiqué was a sad attempt to recreate their first album, Making Movies was a new, fuller sound. By this point, Mark Knopfler’s brother David had left the group, and Mark brought on board Springsteen engineer Jimmy Iovine to produce, who in turn brought along keyboardist Roy Bittan. This production resulted in a richer sound, which when coupled with Knopfler’s writing, comes off as almost cinematic.

Knopfler’s songwriting also makes a change on this album as well. He had always employed dense poetic imagery on his songs, but here the lyricism is tighter and the stories carry further.  Once married to the musical tracks, they come together in masterful style. What’s more, they hold together well, even though their length would suggest that they could not. Take the opening track, “Tunnel of Love,” which stretches beyond eight minutes but can hold the listener’s interest throughout with tempo changes and sheer energy. “Romeo and Juliet” is a beautiful blend between the classic love tale and a heartbreaking love affair gone wrong. Here, the picked guitars weave effortlessly with the keyboards until they explode into a chorus of electric guitars before quieting down once again. “Skateaway” is a similarly stellar example of Knopfler’s lyricism, this time painting a tableau about a roller skating girl on city streets.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Making Movies also contains more of an “arena rock” feel on songs like “Expresso Love” and “Solid Rock,” which was a new departure for the group’s sound. Even though these songs are less memorable, they fit into the “big sound” effort that Iovine and Knopfler were bringing out for the album. “Les Boys” floats back into the old, stripped-down Dire Straits sound as it ham-handedly makes fun of the homosexual club acts the group had seen in Germany (where Dire Straits always did very well). As disappointing as Communiqué was, it went to number one there, while only reaching the 11 spot in the US, and five in the UK). While this song may offend some modern sensibilities 30+ years later, it is an interesting change in sound for the album, and a good song to end the disc. 

After a successful first album, which in itself was a sonic departure from much of the popular music of the late ‘70s, and then a rehash of that sound for their second offering, it was time for Dire Straits to make some changes and show some musical development.  Making Movies demonstrates that growth in a serious way. Knopfler is coming into his own as a songwriter, and the band was headed for some great things in the ‘80s.

Rating: B+

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