15 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a decade as a boozy beatnik piano singer who liked to run his mouth off, Tom Waits re-emerged in 1983 with a nearly brand new approach. Part Captain Beefheart/ Howlin’ Wolf blues, part field-holler, part Salvation Army-junkyard band, Waits took a decisive step into the guttural underground to which he’d always paid a sentimental homage. But here he was getting down on all fours and groveling without shame, coming on from any angle he could muster. “16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six” is a taut, rhythmic groan, punctuated with trombone and brake drum. “Johnsburg, Illinois” is a quiet, sentimental piano ballad that trickles like liquor down the drain. “Town With No Cheer” and “In the Neighborhood” shuffle with a street urchin’s limp. “Underground,” “Down, Down, Down” muscle past with the aggression of a scrappy street gang. Marimbas, congas, upright bass, the percussive attack add an extra dimension, with Waits’ own voice also an instrument in the mix, sometimes gentle, more often loud and abrasive, scraping itself raw in outrage.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a decade as a boozy beatnik piano singer who liked to run his mouth off, Tom Waits re-emerged in 1983 with a nearly brand new approach. Part Captain Beefheart/ Howlin’ Wolf blues, part field-holler, part Salvation Army-junkyard band, Waits took a decisive step into the guttural underground to which he’d always paid a sentimental homage. But here he was getting down on all fours and groveling without shame, coming on from any angle he could muster. “16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six” is a taut, rhythmic groan, punctuated with trombone and brake drum. “Johnsburg, Illinois” is a quiet, sentimental piano ballad that trickles like liquor down the drain. “Town With No Cheer” and “In the Neighborhood” shuffle with a street urchin’s limp. “Underground,” “Down, Down, Down” muscle past with the aggression of a scrappy street gang. Marimbas, congas, upright bass, the percussive attack add an extra dimension, with Waits’ own voice also an instrument in the mix, sometimes gentle, more often loud and abrasive, scraping itself raw in outrage.

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