on 13 August 2006
This is the Tom Waits album that I keep coming back to. It was also the first one I heard many years ago and its appeal has really lasted. For anyone who hasn't heard any of Waits' music before it is also the ideal point to come in. Some of his earlier and later works ('Small Change', 'Real Gone', 'Frank's Wild Years')are much more inaccessible and require a lot of patience whilst his early stuff like 'Heart of saturday Night' is pretty unrepresentative of the bulk of his work. 'Rain Dogs' has the advantage of perfectly capturing the spirit of Waits but also being an album of very good songs. But be prepared to work at it if you are coming to Tom Waits fresh then he requires a couple of listens after the initial reaction of "What the hell is this!?!" It is wonderously atmospheric in its representation of society's dark underbelly. Waits' gravelly, liquor-soaked voice fits perfectly with the weird, carnivalesque music of tracks like "Singapore", "Rain Dogs" and "Cemetary Polka" whilst the latino-inspired "Jockey Full of Boubon" is a wonder. The lyrics throughout are simply amazing - lyrics don't come much better than "Uncle Bill will never leave a will, and the tumor is as big as an egg. He has a mistress, she's Puerto Rican, and I heard she has a wooden leg". There are just too many standout tracks here to mention, true of 'Rain Dogs' more than any other of Waits' albums. However, "Time" is simply Waits at his best musically whilst "9th and Hennepin" is him at his most poetic and evocative. Musically this album has taken virtually the entire gamut of music from jazz, blues, latin dance, rock, Cajun and American folk as its inspiration. Its beyond measure in its reach. One of the best albums ever made. (10/10 - I've loved this for years, I still do)
on 1 May 2002
This has been my favourite album for the last 10 of the 15 years I have owned it - in spite of some of the more accessible tracks like Downtown Train, Gun Street Girl and Blind Love, the album as a whole took some time to really take root in me. You may not love this right from the start but give it time, it gets under your skin. The lyrics and dogged pace of Singapore is unlike anything else (who else could describe sailors' shore leave activities as "making feet for childrens' shoes"?!), to the darkness and dankness of 9th and Hennepin, the rocking track Walking Spanish, to the 3am, whisky fuelled version of Anywhere I Lay My Hat, it's going to take at least another 10 years before I get bored of this classic.
on 30 March 2005
This is currently one of my favourite albums. I discovered Tom Waits through a friend who told me that if I liked Bob Dylan (which I did) then I would like Tom Waits (which i do!). This album offers the perfect introduction into the weird and wonderful world of Mr Waits. From the opening track "Singapore" right through to the rousing "Anywhere I lay my head down" you will be blown away.
I must admit, that the first time I heard this album, I hated it. I couldn't understand what he was saying, and the music seemed a little too weird for me - indeed, even Waits calls his sound like a "junkyard opera". However, if you too find Waits voice a bit grating at first, I urge you to persevere. It's about to get a whole lot better. This is one of those albums that grows on you with every listen.
Things to look out for: The amazing intro to the title track "Rain Dogs", lines like "while making feet for childrens shoes" in "Singapore", and irresistably appealing instrumentation in all of the songs!
on 10 May 2002
This is THE strangest and most evocative album I've ever heard. I agree with a previous reviewer that it does get under your skin, the melodies and lyrics, on first hearing, seem ugly and discordant, but the more you listen the more you realise just how complex, clear and beautiful they are.
This may sound strange, but somebody should make a movie just to fit around this album...featuring seedy, foggy docksides, whaling ships, sweaty Cuban jazz clubs, hookers, cops, cigars, bourbon, tequila and steamy downtown neon-lit streets - it's all in there.
on 20 June 2001
A collection of dark, twisted songs about the freaky and perverted side of life. Has been described-correctly in your reviewer's opinion-as Swordfish Trombones part 2. Here though the songs are fuller and more rounded. Each song is more complete in its narrative than in the preceeding album. Rain Dogs is romanceless, romance being replaced with a sort of brothel-humour. The listner is left to drink and dance with shotgun-criminals, tattoed sailors, and gambling dwarves.
on 2 August 2004
If you ever want to get an understanding of just how varied Waits is, listen to, oh, Nighthawks At The Diner... then this. This is a dark, funny, difficult, and complex work; and is, to my mind, the first time Waits really let his nightmares loose. Listen to this album, stick with, listen to it in the dark midnight, in the car, in the bath. Pretty soon, you won't want to be without it. The imagery is downright "wrong", in the same way that a Lynch film is just "wrong", you know you shouldn't watch, but before you know it, you're hooked; Singapore is damn disturbing for instance. The musicianship is awesome - the broken melody of Tango 'Til They're Sore is incredible, the whole song sounds like it's about to collapse in on you, and magically manages to make it through.
Even if you're not a full on Waits nut, this is an essential purchase for anyone interested in music, and what it can be.
Buy it now!
on 3 September 2013
I've just been reading James Fearnley's Here Comes Everybody, a fairly enjoyable work of "creative non-fiction" that dwells on his time in sybaritic folk-punk act The Pogues, working with the difficult, if incomparable Shane MacGowan. A couple of Amazon reviewers have chosen to criticise him for the way in which he peppers his prose with florid words. Sometimes they have a point - he does occasionally get a case of the Will Self's. But, on plenty of other occasions, his prose is clearly written and persuasive. Take, for instance, his evocative description of this album, and the way in which it united the group with its unique charms. He says:
"It was never off the bus's cassette player. We loved Waits's cantankerous voice, half lover's whisper, half carney's barking. The clanks of the banjo we loved too, along with the ventilation of the accordion, the bonks and crashes of the percussion, the respiration of the pump organ and harmonium, the wailing of the musical saw, the booms of the parade drum, the clonks of the marimba. [...]
We waited for our favourite bits to come up, to point them out to one another. We would stare into each other's eyes waiting for a choice phrase or sound. We delighted in spotting 'Chim Chim Cheree' in one of the verses of 'Diamonds and Gold', and Frank Sinatra's 'Witchcraft' in the melody of 'Rain Dogs'. We groaned in wonder at the brutality and spontaneity of the playing: Marc Ribot's angular guitar, Michael Blair's bonkers percussion, the thumb-heavy banjo on 'Gun Street Girl'.
We relished Waits's imagery - as American as Edward Hopper and as f***** up as George Grosz. Along with the brutality of the music came a zoetropic parade of slaughterhouses, roadhouses, shovels, whiskey, pistols, umbrellas, tumours big as eggs, Cincinnati jackets and paladins' hats."
on 6 February 2011
This album is truly excellent. I'm not incredibly familiar with a lot of Waits's work, although I do own Used Songs, a collection of his earlier work, and I know the odd song here and there from his later years. The Used Songs era stuff is brilliant, rock steeped in blues and jazz and delivered in Waits's iconic voice - rough as sandpaper and mean as a dog. His real strength, however, is his ability to paint pictures and tell stories through his lyrics, usually pictures of moody street scenes in the wrong part of town, and stories of down-and-outs who still carry a torch for some long lost rose.
What Waits does on Rain Dogs is at heart the same thing, but with a much broader scope and in the spirit of adventure. The instrumentation, the musical styles (there is a wonderful polka on this album, and even a piece of spoken-word poetry set to music), the stories (sailing to Singapore under the command of a one-armed dwarf, dancing with the Rose of Tralee, falling out of a window with confetti in the hair somewhere in New Orleans) and the sheer emotional pull of some of these songs is captivating. I recommend that you buy it, buddy.
on 4 February 2006
Luckily, I grew up with my father playing Tom Waits albums in the car constantly, so I got over the "UGH, put it OFF, I can't understand what he's saying, this is AAAAAAAAAAWFUL!" stage by the time I was about twelve. However, hearing Tom Waits for the very first time will definitely be a shock. My advice to you is: Buy a Tom Waits album, and <i>persevere</i>.
And, if you are hearing Waits for the first time, this is the record I would reccommend. It has much more smoothness and production than much of his other work, and the songs all have definite tunes. All in all, this is the most 'accessible' (if there is such a thing) of his albums. It is also arguably his best.
The portrait Waits paints of the darker sides of the world, of human consciousness, and of love, is realistic and gritty - but also, unlike many songwriters', somehow fantastical. The seedy dockside tale of 'Singapore' shouldn't be compelling, but it is. And everyone who has ever liked, or hated, Rod Stewart's 'Downtown Train' absolutely must hear the original. It is at least a million times more beautiful in Tom Waits' gravelly, almost incomprehensibe voice, and actually seems to <i>mean</i> something. The lyrics in every song are profound without being even a tiny bit pretentious, another testament to Waits' awful/brilliant voice. They are also instantly quotable - the line from 'Tango Till They're Sore' "I'll tell you all my secrets but I'll lie about my past, so send me off to bed forever more" was, I am ashamed to say, cheapened by being my MSN tagline for about a month. Quite often these songs get inexorably stuck inside your head and, once there, their messages become convoluted into something so grotesque as to be even more attractive.
As one of the reviewers below stated, almost everyone will hate Tom Waits on a first listen. But if you keep on listening, you will undoubtedly find something you love in his material, and this - in my opinion his best album to date - is a wonderful place to start.
on 11 July 2007
Wait's most pop oriented (in the sense of short songs and catchy, easy to listen to tunes) lp and many people's favourite. A dizzyingly diverse series of vignettes in a range of Waits styles past and present ('Walking Spanish' looks back; 'Singapore' looks forward). A little of everything here, this album is almost like a commercial for Wait's career. Also perhaps his most varied album vocally, from whispered hush to his full scale `pirate' boom.
Very upbeat, with little in the way of the slow ballads that had been his staple before this(though that doesn't mean there are no lumps in the throat: there are), there is an immediacy here that will rattle you through the 19 tracks before you can catch your breath.