The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

37° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Mark Knopler Gets Lucky

    Mark Knopfler has always traded in nostalgia. Think about his most celebrated songs with Dire Straits: long, rambling evocations of pre-industrial Britain, loving renditions of craft work, apprenticeship, and close families gathered around the radio.

    Even ‘Sultans of Swing,’ the band’s breakthrough hit in 1978, celebrated an utterly anachronistic ‘trumpet playing band’ in the’ midst of disco and rock and roll. And those refrigerator delivery guys in ‘Money for Nothing’ were the noble remnants of a deindustrializing Britain in thrall of the cult of celebrity.

    As a solo article, some of his best songs have recalled the drawing of the Mason-Dixon line (‘Sailing to Philadelphia’), the solidarity of pre-Thatcherite English workers (‘Brothers in Arms’ and ‘Why Aye Man’), early rock and roll (‘Calling Elvis’) and even lost loves (‘Romeo and Juliet.’)

    His signature fluidly melodic electric guitar harks back to a time of serious musical craftsmanship — less bombast and fireworks, and more clean and complex, small and precise.

    Like the Kinks with their Village Green Preservation Society, Knopfler aches for the pre-industrial era, before the lawyers and factories of ‘Telegraph Road.’ But if we can’t have it, at least we can return to what we might call the ‘pre-post-industrial’ world, when the people who made things with their hands ‘- as well as those who installed and repaired them — still had some craft pride. A world before abject mindless consumerism: the virtuous republic of producers and owners.

    This nostalgia for both the pre-industrial and that ‘pre-post-industrial’ are both on ample display on Knopfler’s latest release, Get Lucky. He returns again to the post-war Glasgow of his childhood and the sooty de-industralizing Newcastle of his youth, to draw inspiration for his often plaintive and occasionally anthemic evocations of the past.

    Most of the songs are slow, languid ballads, punctuated by Knopfler’s trademark guitar style ‘- poetically clean and melodic. ‘The Car was the One’ recalls high school nostalgia for cool sports cars, and ‘Before Gas and TV’ evokes a working class family life reminiscent of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ where the family gathers in the cramped, coal-heated living room to play homemade music and create memories that will obviously last a lifetime. ‘Piper to the End’ recalls Knopfler’s uncle who was a piper in the British army, killed in World War II.

    To be sure, Knopfler can still rock a bit, even after 30 years!

    ‘Cleaning My Gun’ is a gritty rock-blues number that suggests that nostalgia needn’t imply giving up being wary of contemporary hucksterism. And ‘Border Reiver,’ which opens the album, is an uptempo, folk-infused song about a Glaswegian truck driver roaming the highlands borders, complete with accordion and penny whistle and a lilting Scottish beat. (It’s reminiscent of ‘Southbound Again’ from the very first Dire Straits album.)

    One song, ‘Remembrance Day’ captures the nostalgic mood, a mixture of resolve and elegy. He lists those long-gone pleasures of youth ‘- the aimless cricket game, the maypole and morris dancers, the church steeple ‘- and then names all his childhood friends, now scattered and lost. As if to underscore the personal, familial nature of his album, Knopfler even calls on a children’s chorus to sing softly, ‘We will remember them.’
    An album this personal can be difficult to relate to. And nostalgia is a tricky currency, especially in the pop music culture of ‘right now.’ But Knopfler’s music is so simple, and his guitar frills so hauntingly melodic that the tunes just stick with you long after the album ends. Which is sort of the point of nostalgia, isn’t it? ‘

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *