Music Critic Confessions: The Dreaded 'New Mark Knopfler Solo Album'!


First off, Mark Knopfler doesn't give a damn what I think and I completely appreciate that.  But, seriously, there is nothing a music critic dreads more than seeing a promo copy of Mark Knopfler's new solo album show up in the mail.

And it isn't so much that I don't care what Knopfler might be up to musically, but that NOBODY ELSE DOES.  Whatever effort I put into penning even the most well-informed review will be met with tumbleweeds.  Hell, I'm surprised there isn't a sticker on every new Knopfler solo album that says "Fuck You, I Wrote 'Money For Nothing'" because, let's face it, a song like that casts a long shadow.  On one hand, thanks to the song's now-ubiquitous success, he never has to work again, but on the other, nobody wants to hear it when he does.

It's an odd thing; that strange double-standard that exists in the music world where certain bands are forever tarnished by their own success.  You work your whole career to write the kind of hit that people respond to by the millions and when you finally attain that success, that ONE musical moment winds up defining you so completely in the eyes of the public that that's all they want to hear.



Oh sure, if you had some other smaller hits before that, by all means, feel free to play them at your gigs, but just remember that the last words this or any other crowd from now until the end of time wants to hear come out of your pie hole is "Here's one from my new album."

For Dire Straits, that sort of success came in 1979 with "Sultans Of Swing" from their self-titled first album.  For about six months, you literally could not turn on the radio without hearing the song. "Sultans" wound up charting at #2 on the esteemed Billboard Pop Singles chart while the album went Top 5.  Instead of the world greeting the band's new material with open arms, though, when the band issued Communiqué a year later, radio programmers took one listen, didn't hear "Sultans Of Swing, Pt 2" and took a pass.

Two more albums came and went...tumbleweeds.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, every album the band released flew into the Top 5.  Unlike in the States, their success at home wasn't based on one monster hit, but, rather, a steady diet of surly, mumble-mouthed guitar rockers like "Romeo And Juliet", "Skateaway" and "Twisting By The Pool".  Just to give you an idea of the sort of Bizarro World that lies "just across the pond", the band's biggest chart hit in England is "Private Investigations"; a song most folks here couldn't pick out of a police line-up.

Inexplicably, in 1985, the band tapped into the American consciousness with their biting commentary on consumerism, "Money For Nothing", and scored their biggest hit ever.  Against all odds, the song's computer-animated video was immediately placed in the heaviest rotation possible on MTV, getting more spins per day than Madonna and Bon Jovi combined.

The success was such that the band did not release a new album for another six years.  Smart move, all things considered, as the success of "Money For Nothing" had come six years after "Sultans Of Swing".  The new album, On Every Street, went #1 in literally every country on the planet.  Except the United States.

Since then, Mark Knopfler has concentrated mostly on solo work.  In the UK, six of his solo albums have hit the Top 10.  To me, a.k.a. "someone who has heard those albums", that is literally amazing.
Meanwhile, here in the States, we're rightfully bored to tears by the very idea of a Mark Knopfler studio album.  Even so, the guy has actually had two solo albums hit the Top 40 in the U.S..  Keep in mind that both took place in the 2000's after the bottom fell out of the music industry and albums that were selling a meager 15,000 a week began rocketing into the Top 20.

Which brings us to the promotional "review copy" of Mark Knopflers new album, Tumbleweeds. Okay, technically, the album is called Tracker, but it may as well be called Tumbleweeds because that's what everybody else sees in their mind when you broach the subject of a new Mark Knopfler solo album.  Don't get me wrong, I like the guy immensely and consider his success well-deserved.

Seriously, I would willingly gnaw off my right AND left arms just to experience what must constitute a "bad day" in his world:  "Dammit, my guitar-playing hand is getting sore from endorsing all these royalty checks!"

And as I sit here staring at that CD and knowing what the rest of my afternoon holds, I just know that Mark Knopfler is out there somewhere laughing his ass off.

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