Dire Straits’ records have always been notably good-sounding, and Brothers in Arms became the occasion for the purchase of a brand-new CD player back in the day for many music geeks — I was one of them. The title song sounds good too, but today we’re acknowledging its beauty and sadness and message.
The beauty, superficially, is in the exquisite guitar obbligatos that come in after each sad verse. But there’s more; while nobody would call Mark Knopfler one of the great singers, he really gives it all he’s got on Brothers, suggesting notes that are way out of his reach, and just the right amounts of room in between, here and there. Also, he had a beat-up old man’s voice right from the start, and that’s what this song needs.
Also, the sound. If you’re one of those troglodytes who still has a “stereo” that you play “recordings” on, and also you happen to have this recording, go put on this song and turn it up. Turn it up really loud; louder by a wide margin than the loudest you ever go. Chances are, it’ll sound great. There’s something about this song (and also The Man’s Too Strong) that makes it keep sounding good at huge, crushing, unreasonable levels.
And then there’s the message; sadness, men’s sadness specifically, the sad stupidity of men going to war especially, and losing their homes, and the absolute companionship of being Brothers in Arms is not close to making up for it: It’s written in the stars / and every line on your palm / We were fools to make war / on our brothers in arms.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. There are loads of performances out there on video and it sure is an enjoyable way to spend an hour, watching a half dozen or so. I picked four: early & minimal (georgeous outro); later and more musically ambitious, later again in 1997 with a full orchestra, and finally 2010, seated and with a little extra feeling.