On Every Street

Dire Straits

Warner Brothers, 1991

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dire_Straits

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/29/2017

Brothers In Arms would have been the perfect way to say goodbye to Dire Straits. It was the commercial and, arguably, artistic peak of the band’s career, much like the Police’s Synchronicity had been in 1983. Perhaps realizing this, the band split up in 1988, effectively ending the story of this idiosyncratic, melancholic British band.

But wait! In 1991, chief songwriter and guitarist Mark Knopfler attempted to reunite the band (owing more to commercial and label pressure than artistic reasons) for a follow-up to the massively successful Brothers. Knopfler had formed the Notting Hillbillies in that time and focused on a different sort of music, even appearing on Saturday Night Live with that band, but a couple of one-off Dire Straits projects and a hits album kept the band somewhat popular, so it was inevitable that this album would have to be recorded.

And just as one would expect from a lackluster buildup like that, the album fails to deliver most anything on par with the best songs of the band’s original five albums. It did fine commercially because of its predecessor, which is inevitable; R.E.M.’s Monster my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 sold well too initially, but about six months later you could find multiple copies in every discount CD store in the country. The truth is that the fire was gone, as were the quirky edges and sense of humor that made songs like “Walk Of Life” and “Industrial Disease” and “Sultans Of Swing” so good.

In its place was a professional adult contemporary pop-rock band that only passingly resembled Dire Straits because of Knopfler’s guitar playing and husky voice. The songs are depressingly rote, midtempo yawners that stretch on far too long without settling into a groove. Knopfler shows obvious love for rockabilly music here but isn’t quite able to incorporate it into what he thinks a Dire Straits album should sound like; the moments when he does, as on “The Bug,” are the most exciting. Plus, “I love the babes, don’t get me wrong / That’s why I love this song” (from the country-fried “Heavy Fuel,” a protean Toby Keith/Big & Rich song) is a hilarious line coming from Mark Knopfler, since he delivers it nearly completely straight with a hint of sarcasm.

“Fade To Black” is quite a moment, though, a smoky slow-blues burner that could be about any number of things and feels completely lived-in. In real life, the grinding tour for this album would cost both Knopfler both his band and his marriage; he would resurface later with a successful and far more personally pleasing solo career, and Dire Straits has yet to reform in any fashion after its breakup in 1995, even to cash in. It makes the song eerily prescient.

Knopfler remains a unique and sincere voice throughout, able both to sell a song like “Heavy Fuel” and the folk rumbling of “Iron Hand,” and is compelling even when he’s not meaning to be. But the songs aren’t really Dire Straits anymore; trimmed by a few, this could have been a solid first solo record. Fans of “Money For Nothing” or even the earlier songs will find little here to hang on to and, if they haven’t already, will turn it off by the time they hit the old-timey country shuffle of “Ticket To Heaven,” which is about as far away from “Walk Of Life” as you can get. In just six years (an eternity in pop music), that’s a lot of distance.

On Every Street is clearly the final chapter in the Dire Straits story. Melancholic to a fault, only a handful of songs are worthy of the band’s name (including “Planet Of New Orleans,” darn near an epic and the penultimate track here) and the disc is only fittingly entertaining and sorely lacking in energy. A dénouement, to be sure, but hardly a fitting one.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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