Culture

CD REVIEW SHANGRI-LA IS LIKE A FULL MUSICAL NOVEL

If you’re ever on the road driving for miles on end, be sure to take along Mark Knopfler’s latest release, Shangri-La – if you can bear all of it.

The hour-long album is basically Knopfler’s large collection of short stories about the world, complete with quirky titles like “Whoop De Doo” and “Postcards From Paraguay” and enough lyrics to write a full-blown novel.

With an amazing easygoing feel, the album exudes a kind of wisdom amplified by Knopfler’s less-is-more approach to music. That, in fact, is the album’s best quality – opting for soft instrumental parts and letting Knopfler’s words come to the forefront, where his unique lyrical style creates a mesmerizing ambiance. Songs such as “Boom, Like That,” “5:15 a.m.” and “Don’t Crash The Ambulance” best showcase his ability to write with a poet’s grace and a drummer’s rhythm.

He also tackles an interesting mix of issues, ranging from crime to capitalism to the life of boxer Sonny Liston. Meanwhile, the music’s gentle, country and Western-style flavor is a welcome repose from Knopfler’s dense lyricism.

At 14 tracks, however, the album grows weary, largely because all the songs are structured the same. The rambling lyricism leads to thick, lengthy verses, which would be OK if the songs had more dynamics. So although with Shangri-La, Knopfler’s musical style steps out of the mainstream, it unfortunately clings on to some of its monotony.

Rafael Sangivanni can be contacted at r.sangiovanni@umiami.edu.

November 12, 2004

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