Saturday, July 01, 2017

Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones

Having discovered Waits with Blue Valentine and absolutely loving his bohemian/beat/jazzbo persona, it took me a while to start digging his later, more experimental work. I just got this record for the first time and, according to Wikipedia anyway, this is the first one where he really started experimenting with different instruments, rhythms, and styles. But, goddam if this isn't up there with the best of his work. He changes genres from song to song, with mad circus music, jazzy ballads, upbeat jumpers, beatnik tales and plenty more. Waits work is something that, when you are in the right mood, is the perfect music for that mood, whatever it might be. A couple of numbers here have amazing bluesy guitar with a sexy backbeat. Others have crazed jazzy stand-up bass with wacked out percussion that tells as much of a story as his lyrics. Yet his imagery is detailed and amazing - it is much harder than one would think to put such detail into a song. And goddam if that guitar in "Shore Leave" isn't perfect and amazing at the same time - while remaining simple and beautiful. I love how in "Johnsburg, Illinnois" he takes a song that would have fit in on Small Change and twists it just enough to make us know he's trying something new. The percussion on "16 Shells..." drives it in a pervertedly rockin' way and the horns are subtle but perfect. "Frank's Wild Years" (later to become a full record) has a fantastic, jazzy background and a dementedly clever and all-to-brief story line. The title track has his odd-ball rhythms, cool instrumentation and the template for much of what was to come. "Down, Down, Down" is fantastic and frantic and about as good as Waits gets. "Gin Soaked Boy" has brilliant blues slide guitar, in a Waitsian way.

This is a brilliant album that makes me want to pull  out every Waits record that I have - and I have a lot. I will probably listen to something else subversive instead...But, buy this - you won't regret it (unless you are boring)....