19 Songs, 53 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The shift in approach begun with 1983’s Swordfishtrombones is in full effect for the follow-up, 1985’s Rain Dogs, a 19-track tour de force. Staffed with a stellar line-up of backing musicians (Marc Ribot, Chris Spedding, Keith Richards, John Lurie, Robert Quine, G.E. Smith), Waits continued his aggressive percussive attack, barking loudly in the blues field holler tradition for the rave-ups (“Big Black Mariah,” “Union Square”) and choking back in agony for the ballads (“Time,” “Downtown Train”) until the traditional musical and lyrical worlds we’re familiar with have drifted off to sea. Marimbas, odd percussive devices and an emphasis on unusual horn figures, courtesy of Ralph Carney, make for a creaky walk through an old house with no level floor. Waits’ beatnik poetry has twisted into a singular vision of the world that escapes the bonds of time and geography. It’s a surrealist’s view jammed with lyrical madness (“Singapore,” “Clap Hands,” “9th and Hennepin”). Yet, despite these moments of skewered logic and rhythm, there are satisfying, straight-forward rockers (“Blind Love,” “Hang Down Your Head”) that suddenly jolt things into focus.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The shift in approach begun with 1983’s Swordfishtrombones is in full effect for the follow-up, 1985’s Rain Dogs, a 19-track tour de force. Staffed with a stellar line-up of backing musicians (Marc Ribot, Chris Spedding, Keith Richards, John Lurie, Robert Quine, G.E. Smith), Waits continued his aggressive percussive attack, barking loudly in the blues field holler tradition for the rave-ups (“Big Black Mariah,” “Union Square”) and choking back in agony for the ballads (“Time,” “Downtown Train”) until the traditional musical and lyrical worlds we’re familiar with have drifted off to sea. Marimbas, odd percussive devices and an emphasis on unusual horn figures, courtesy of Ralph Carney, make for a creaky walk through an old house with no level floor. Waits’ beatnik poetry has twisted into a singular vision of the world that escapes the bonds of time and geography. It’s a surrealist’s view jammed with lyrical madness (“Singapore,” “Clap Hands,” “9th and Hennepin”). Yet, despite these moments of skewered logic and rhythm, there are satisfying, straight-forward rockers (“Blind Love,” “Hang Down Your Head”) that suddenly jolt things into focus.

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