This album is nothing short of astonishing. It is a sort of culmination of Tom Waits's early work, his archetypal 70's album. He remains lyrically "chained to the same bowl of vomit" (as Nick Cave once put it so eloquently), which in his case is the seedy, late night, underworld of bars with beer-stained carpets and smoke-filled air. This does focus less on scene-setting and more on character sketches and narratives, but the lyrics are pure Waits: full of the off-color imagery and crazy internal rhyming that is distinctly his. The album is divided between jazzy, piano-based songs (with occasional orchestral backing), and a few more musically mundane pieces, featuring something along the line of spoken-word pieces. The first song is the excellent Tom Traubert's Blues (God only knows where some of Waits's song titles come from) - this is the first Waits song that I ever heard, and, when I heard it, the voice almost knocked me out. It's just yet another signature element. Step Right Up is a hilarous scat piece. Other highlights include Invitation To The Blues, The One That Got Away, and the surreal title track. This album also includes two of Waits's all-time classic songs, The Piano Has Been Drinking and Bad Liver And A Broken Heart (possibly one of my favorite songs of his.) This is certainly an essential Waits album, and it's not a bad place for a new fan to start.