Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dire Straits 2: Communiqué

It’s said that a band puts a lifetime into their first album, and a month into their second. Communiqué wasn’t as big of a hit as Dire Straits’ debut (in the US, anyway) but while it follows some of the patterns of that album, it’s hardly a retread. And in some ways, it’s more satisfying, proving to whomever was paying attention that they weren’t just a flash in the pan.
Naturally, it starts with an epic—in this case, “Once Upon A Time In The West”, conjuring not visions of cowboys but a hint of reggae over a broken time signature. “News” opens on melancholy guitar figure, repeated under verses and leading into the tension of the bridges. A similar effect drives “Where Do You Think You’re Going?”, but is given space to expand and rev up with a solo over the fade. The mood lifts somewhat with the title track, which doesn’t seem like much lyrically but keeps a rhythm going long enough to keep things up.
Just as before, the single starts side two. “Lady Writer” is directly descended musically from “Sultans Of Swing”, complete with a variation of that same guitar solo. “Angel Of Mercy” and particularly “Portobello Belle” are very tender singalongs perfect for any pub or football match, but “Single Handed Sailor” overstays his welcome with a generally annoying riff. Virtually dominated by ocean sound effects and a lumbering groove, the overlong “Follow Me Home” is an oddly quiet conclusion. In fact, several seconds go by before you might realize that the album’s over, so you can either put something else on or listen to it again. (Probably the latter.)
Like most Dire Straits albums, Communiqué sounds good, thanks to the legendary team of Barry Beckett and Jerry Wexler, mere months before they brought Mark Knopfler in for Dylan’s Slow Train Coming. The variety of the music gives it just the slightest edge over the debut, and the future looked promising. On the pop charts, however, disco was still king, so the band was still considered a one-hit wonder.

Dire Straits Communiqué (1979)—

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