Mark Knopfler - Kill to Get Crimson

Mark Knopfler
Kill to Get Crimson

(Warner Bros.)

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2

Written by John Metzger

Mon February 25, 2008, 07:30 AM CST


At this stage of his career, Mark Knopfler’s fans can purchase his albums and know precisely what to expect from them. His consistency, however, ought not be confused with complacency. Aside from his hit-and-miss set Sailing to Philadelphia, where he not only seemed unsure of himself but also was distracted by his guests, Knopfler has assembled a string of understated, yet remarkably inspired endeavors that have expanded upon the character studies that he once delivered so forcefully while fronting Dire Straits. Sounding a lot like an outtake from his sessions for All the Roadrunning with Emmylou Harris, opening cut True Love Will Never Fade is an ideal entree to his latest endeavor Kill to Get Crimson. As the set progresses, it becomes clear that Knopfler’s desire was to refine the subtle gracefulness and beauty that he brought to bear on Shangri-La. Not surprisingly, then, the effort slowly reveals itself to be another stunning affair.

For certain, each of the outings in Knopfler’s solo canon has followed a similar pattern, and at its core, Kill to Get Crimson isn’t terribly different from what had preceded it. Once again, Knopfler placed a British twist upon his distinctive convergence of blues, folk, and rock styles. Yet, as he has moved from one album to the next, he also has made subtle changes to his approach. Over the course of Kill to Get Crimson, he toys with melodic structures while continuing to demonstrate immense restraint in his performance. He chose to shade rather than splatter his work with color, and the result is that he has pushed himself further outside his familiar comfort zone without ever alienating himself from his past.

Thematically, from the heartbroken tattoo artist in True Love Will Never Fade to the fall guy whose tale is told in Punish the Monkey to the painter who is struggling to be creative in Let It All Go, Knopfler crafts impressionistic portraits of working class people who have been pushed into corners and situations that are less than ideal. While it hasn’t been silenced completely, their yearning has been diminished to the point where they simply have come to accept their lot in life. They hope for something better, but they don’t expect the rewards will ever really come.

All 12 of Kill to Get Crimson’s tracks settle effortlessly into their slow-to-mid-tempo gaits, which magnifies the gray-skied, melancholy air that hangs over the endeavor. It’s only upon close inspection that Knopfler’s playfully clever nature truly is revealed. When he sings, "All my yesterdays broken" during Heart Full of Holes, for example, the music delightfully becomes Beatle-esque in tone, if only for a moment. Likewise, the preparations for a boarding school dance that are depicted in Secondary Waltz evoke another time and place long before he slyly makes mention of "D-Day," which is done not specifically in reference to World War II but rather to the boys’ unavoidable meeting with the girls.

Undeniably, it is the manner in which Knopfler’s lyrics and his music collide that makes Kill to Get Crimson such a magnificent affair. Although there are plenty of tasty guitar licks woven into the collection’s rich, sonic tapestry, Knopfler’s solos tend to slip quietly alongside the rest of the instrumentation rather erupt in a blaze of glory. Essentially, he completes the thoughts, ideas, and moods that he sketches with his words by subtly giving them shape and texture through his arrangements. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, of course, but by applying to his typically epic narratives the knowledge and experience that he had gleaned from his work composing film soundtracks, Knopfler maturely has turned Kill to Get Crimson into the cinematic culmination of his 30-year career. starstarstarstar

Kill to Get Crimson is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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