Acclaimed Albums – Rain Dogs by Tom Waits

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 161/250Title: Rain Dogs
Artist: Tom Waits
Year: 1985
Position: #92

Reading back on my thoughts of swordfishtrombonesit looks like I wasn’t exactly quite sure what to make of it. In places I am a bit dismissive of it (mainly because it wasn’t the cabaret style I expected) and in others I’m thinking about whether this warrants further listens down the line. Well, I didn’t play it again in the 18 months since – but I weirdly feel like I am in better place to appreciate it.

Not only am I coming off an obsession with the Over The Garden Wall soundtrack (which contains a few Tom Waits-style songs like ‘The Highwayman’), but I also fell deeply in love with 50 Song Memoir by The Magnetic Fields and rediscovered Ute Lempur’s Punishing Kiss. All of these have seemingly paved the way to this listen of Rain Dogs, which I have enjoyed immensely.

I know that there is a lot of commonality between Rain Dogs and swordfishtrombones, but I feel like I have finally gotten the aesthetic he is going for. It really is the raspy singer in the corner of a surreal dive bar who is narrating the lives of the unfortunates who drink there and plays whatever instruments have been left behind over the years (which apparently includes a marimba).

On the whole this album is weird and is what you might expect to hear if there was ever a mash-up of Black Books and Twin Peaks. Sure ‘Hang Down Your Head’ provides a melodic break about a third of the way through, but soon we’re back to off-kilter narratives and really idiosyncratic guitar playing.

This, by no means, is an album that everyone will enjoy. I mean, the look my husband had on his face when he came through the door to this playing was… well it was something. I guess if you enter part way through Rain Dogs then you are going to wonder what the hell is going on. By then you’ve already missed ‘Clap Hands’ and ‘Jockey Full of Bourbon’, which is a damned shame.

It’s also interesting to finally hear the original version of ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’, which I only previously knew from Scarlett Johansson’s Tom Waits cover album of the same name. An interesting way to end the album, but not one of the songs I would personally call a highlight. Still, this is definitely one of the better albums I have listened to for the list in the last few months – even if it is one of the weirder ones.

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