|2. Shore Leave|
|3. Dave The Butcher|
|4. Johnsburg, Illinois|
|5. 16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six|
|6. Town With No Cheer|
|7. In The Neighborhood|
|8. Just Another Sucker On The Vine|
|9. Frank's Wild Years|
|11. Down, Down, Down|
|12. Soldier's Things|
|13. Gin Soaked Boy|
|14. Trouble's Braids|
Consequently, he re-invented himself in 1983 with Swordfishtrombones. Choosing to jettison his record label and produce the new album himself, he also left behind the combination of strings and piano that had backed so many of his previous songs, replacing them with scratchy electric guitars (often plucked), bizarre organs, glass harmonicas, and most of all, a huge variety of drums. The result is a CD full of arresting soundscapes in which his voice, always distinctive, becomes an instrument in its own right.
The lyrics are different also. Though he is still most certainly singing about life's unfortunates, the typical references to hookers, bars, and closing time are replaced with mystifying, often nightmareish story-lyrics in which the listener more often gets the gist, rather than the details, of the circumstances described. Though "Frank's Wild Years" is a spoken song and might at first seem similar to the spoken-word masterpieces of, say, Nighthawks at the Diner, this song is not about your typical drunkard but rather a psychopath who, unable to stand his suburban existance, burns down his house and drives away laughing.Read more ›
The rest of the album is an exploration of his talking vocal style, with jazzy or bluesy arrangements providing the backdrop to his Beat poetry. Of the three instrumentals, I prefer Just Another Sucker On The Vine with its lovely interplay between harmonium and trumpet. The gentle Soldier's Things and Town With No Cheer are also lovely ballads, but with a lounge jazz feel.
Many of the songs have a theme of travelling and being out of place and out of time. Swordfishtrombones is certainly a very accomplished album on which Waits honed many of his inimitable styles, but besides Neighborhood I do not find many of the songs personally appealing, thence the three stars. For those of his fans that like his rasping voice and spoken style, this is a five star album.