The Album -- Dire Straits' "Making Movies," Phonogram BSK 3480.; The Show -- Tuesday at 8 at the Bayou.
Listening to Dire Straits' "Making Movies" is like eating a Twinkie without its cream filling. You get halfway through the trademark sweetness, the predictable airy texture, the never-too-daring, comforting taste before you realize that the smack of sinful dulcitude for which you've suffered all that empty heat has eluded you.
It's easy to let the outrage get out of proportion, but perhaps it's possible to expect too much from this band, or at least from leader Mark Knopfler.
One keeps being reminded about how Knopfler sprang out of obscurity and into the studios with the Truly Great: Mark Knopfler with Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler with Steely Dan; it wouldn't come as much of a shock to hear Knopfler was in the studio with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The tip-off is that whenever Knopfler takes time out to record with his own band, it's less and less of a big deal.
Dire Straits' debut, while no masterpiece, was shot through with loving '60s-style guitar breaks and simple but tasteful chord progressions. Critics complained that it was overly stylized, even as new wave was beginning to gag from its most suffocating stylistic limitations.
But the buying public asserted its collective muscle undaunted.
"Communique," not surprisingly, tried to follow up the success of "Dire Straits" and ended up a formulaic rehash, almost song for song, though "Once Upon a Time in the West" enjoyed some success. A part of the problem was that, in the interim, the industry had discovered you-know-who as a hot item.
Dredging up this worn tale is rather useless except to point out how it has affected a potentially fine band, or what remains of it -- David Knopfler, who once gushed brotherly admiration to the rock press, has quietly left the group.
"Making Movies," all of whose songs were penned by Knopfler, sounds as if it were written on a lunch break and played during an argument. The best cut is "Romeo and Juliet," a dead ringer, progression-wise, for "Wild West End," but a good lyrical offering.
"Skateaway" is the single most likely to get airplay, but its subject matter is embarrassingly tame and silly. The rest is forgettable, assembly-line junk, hurried and heartless.
Mark Knopfler could be the talent everyone expects if given a little time to learn from the artists he has worked with of late. His gravelly voice is the perfect balance for his sweet guitar, and his penmanship can be cutting and direct, as on "In the Gallery" and "Sultans of Swing." His rugged demeanor and romantic sensibility evoke a sex appeal rivaled in rock only by Mick Jagger's swagger or Jackson Browne's derriere.
But even Dylan and Steely Dan know the value of taking the time to let all the ingredients come together, and after all, what's the rush? It's only rock and roll.
A Twinkie is a Twinkie is a Twinkie. But even a Twinkie needs a little soul.