Communique is nothing but a pale carbon copy of the band's debut: basically, everything that can be found on this album can be found on its predecessor, but definitely not vice versa. Yes, the band is still going on with the same vibe: quiet, relaxative rootsy music with elements of jazz and country, driven forward by Knopfler's dextrous guitar picking and his "dark hoarse" of a voice. And I can't even say that the melodies on Communique are all that weaker than before, because Dire Straits were never the masters of unexpected melodic hook to begin with. But several important things are lacking or have changed.
First of all, I'm kinda disappointed with the lyrics - a little. Where the lyrics on Dire Straits were very much subject-oriented, drawing vivid and impressive pictures of the dark and depressing "night London" life, that really put you out in a world of its own, here Mark goes for something far more intimate and personal, and thus, far from everyone can identify with what he's actually saying. What the hell is 'Once Upon A Time In The West' about, after all? One can only guess... Not that the lyrics are bad; but this deeply-rooted, serious, pseudo-mystical attitude to earthy reality is not what I'd expect out of Mark. Some say that he'd been even further influenced by Dylan at the time, and this is possibly true, considering that he helped Bob record his first Christian album at the time and also that 'Angel Of Mercy' sounds like a pure Dylan rip-off; but I also see a cheesy smell of Springsteen here, and I don't like it. Leave Springsteen for the States and follow your own path. I far preferred Knopfler singing about "french kisses in the darkened doorways" and the Sultans of Swing.
Second and far more important, the sound is far less diverse here. What?, you'll say. How can a Dire Straits album sound less diverse than their debut? But come now, the debut was pretty diverse in that it at least set slightly different moods. You got your nostalgic kick in 'Down To The Waterline', your bit of despair and hope in 'Water Of Love', your bit of subtle menace in 'Six Blade Knife', your bit of gentle romance in 'Wild West End', your bit of angry social critique in 'Gallery' and even your couple of faster dance numbers. Here, basically every song sets the same gloomy, monotonous, melancholic pattern, and Knopfler uses more or less the same guitar tone and tonality throughout the whole record. The only major exception is the intentionally cheerful 'Angel Of Mercy', but like I said, it's such a blatant Dylan rip-off that it ain't even funny.
What's worse, Communique is full of self-recycling. I mean, it was tolerable when we had 'Down To The Waterline' and 'Sultans Of Swing' on the same record, because they triggered different imagery in your head, but what the hell is 'Lady Writer', the third rewrite of the tune, doing here? Not to mention that I don't like the production. Apparently, something happened - I'm a-guessin' that Mark's guitar meshes a bit too much with brother David's rhythm playing and the resulting sound is thicker and less spare than before, which isn't interesting at all. Cut the crap, we're here to hear Mark, not his interplay with David. Another "highlight" on the record is 'Once Upon A Time In The West', a future stage favourite, and it sounds nice and moody, for sure, until you realize that it's actually a near-perfect copy of 'In The Gallery', right down to certain rhythm syncopation techniques. These two are the most obvious examples; I could go on for kilobytes trying to pick out all the other similarities, but why should I? Okay, just one more thing: 'Follow Me Home'. What the heck is that? It borrows the rhythmic punch off 'Six Blade Knife', but it's bleaker, blander, and far less distinctive. I rarely have the patience to sit through the coda to the song - usually I switch off the CD long before the end.