Music

Mark Knopfler: Kill to Get Crimson

Kill to Get Crimson, far more tranquil than its title suggests, might be the most cohesive of Knopfler's solo career.


Mark Knopfler

Kill to Get Crimson

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2007-09-18
UK Release Date: 2007-09-17
Amazon
iTunes

Mark Knopfler's solo career must be something of a disappointment to many Dire Straits fans. He seems to have completely hung up his guitar god badge, and after five solo albums (not counting soundtracks), seems intent on seeing his folk interests to their logical end. This really shouldn't come as any surprise, though. Despite the irony that MTV helped pour tons of "money for nothing" into Dire Straits' wallets for the uptempo songs from 1985's Brothers in Arms, it was the album's title track -- sombre, precise, and stately -- that defined the record's soul. Before that, with songs like "Romeo & Juliet" and even "Sultans of Swing", Knopfler had proven himself a fan of the rock song as vignette. Soundtracks like Local Hero and The Princess Bride found him honing the quiet, pastoral approach that's typified his post-Straits career.

Despite the seeming aggressiveness of its title (which actually refers to a painter's desire to get a color on his palette), Kill to Get Crimson finds Knopfler further perfecting his gentle, lilting, delicate solo style. With the help of accordion, fiddle, vibes, horns, and his warm signature guitar sound, Knopfler's created a subtle record, one that's extremely pleasant to the ear, but which offers vivid stories for those inclined to listen more deeply.

The album's only real misstep -- and it's a slight, arguable one -- might be found in "The Scaffolder's Wife". Knopfler chooses to adorn his tale of a dissatisfied partner with woodwinds that sound like a product of the '60s or '70s, but by the time Knopfler comes in with a sympathetic, decidedly un-folky guitar solo, things meld together better. If it's glaring, it's only due to Knopfler's tendency to reference much earlier times on Kill to Get Crimson. "The Fish and the Bird", a tale of a girl's love for a tinker boy, recalls English ballads, as does "Madame Geneva's", with its references to penny-a-sheet ballads, hawkers, sack, and the hangman. Even when his tales are decidedly more modern, as when a boxer recalls dancing lessons from his school days ("Secondary Waltz"), Knopfler opts for an actual waltz (a feel that permeates much of the disc, actually). If Kill to Get Crimson has a spiritual relative outside of Knopfler's own work, it might be Richard Thompson's 1000 Years of Popular Music, where Prince's "Kiss" shared the stage with the traditional "King Henry V's Conquest of France" in a musical history lesson.

Kill to Get Crimson is nowhere near as wide-ranging as that -- its most boisterous track, "Punish the Monkey", which sounds like a vintage Dire Straits cut, also sounds like an aberration amongst the disc's more pensive songs. Apart from that one nod to Knopfler's rock past, "True Love Will Never Fade" might be the only other nod to contemporary music, and then only because the vocal melody recalls Bruce Springsteen's "If I Should Fall Behind". But Kill to Get Crimson conveys a very real sense that Knopfler's incorporating not only his chops as a pop songwriter, but also his lessons as a student of traditional music. It all blends together so well that even the kaleidoscopic interludes that accent "Heart Full of Holes", a dusty portrait of an old pawnbroker, make sense once you hear them.

If there's a downside to Knopfler's increasingly introspective approach, it's that some listeners might not give it a proper chance; Knopfler's vocals have always contained a hazy quality, and some songs on Crimson take on that same unassuming feel. This listener made the mistake of giving it a first listen in the car during rush hour, which didn't work at all; it wasn't until later, more peaceful listens that the disc's qualities began to unfold. It's definitely a record that needs multiple listens to fully reveal itself. Knopfler's been working towards this sound throughout his solo career, and with Kill to Get Crimson, he offers his most cohesive record yet.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image