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Rain Dogs is the 9th album from American singer songwriter Tom Waits.
The opener is a bit of an odd one, an oompah style tune all the way while Tom croaks his way through with his distinctive 100 Marlboro a day style delivery. The song itself is basically a list of odd characters embarking on a trip, the Captain himself is said to be a one armed dwarf. Can't see that being a problem.
Musically it's pretty unsettling, sporadic jerky guitars held together well by a stand up bass throughout
Another sinister sounding track, the percussion sounds like random pots and pans being rattled until the guitar break near the middle. Lyrically it's a stream of consciousness type affair with Tom forming a story from whichever words pop into his head at the time, almost like a musical Jack Kerouac.
As the title suggests this is in a Polka style, full of accordion, brass and one of my faves, the Farfisa. Again it's not exactly sang in a tuneful way, Tom pretty much just barks out a list of people with some strange quirks.
Jockey Full of Bourbon
We finally get something resembling a tune here, although it feels more like a musical version of Tom's freeform lyrics. A bluesy guitar riff is punctuated by an organic sounding percussion with wooden blocks and what sounds like a tin tray being used.
Tango Till They Are Sore
A slow Jazz type here, with Tom playing piano in what sounds like a drunken way with a stand up bass and trumpet backing. Not one of my top picks from the album to be fair, lyrically it's superb but the music starts to grate very quickly.
Big Black Mariah
A nice fat bass intro with Tom howling like a dog in pain. It's a more upbeat track with an excellent blues guitar ghosting in and out. Tom does B B King is the best way to put this and he does it well.
Diamonds and Gold
Seems Tom is now bored of tunes and goes back to a minimalistic style. A light and chiming guitar jars awkwardly with the clunky percussion. Tom sounds here like hes in desperate need for some Strepsils.
Hang Down Your Head
A chunky riff adds some weight to the music that a few of the other tracks had been missing, although well played none of the music on offer is especially flashy, it's as if its happy just being way in the background as Tom delivers a song full of soul and heart.
A slow and low beat piano led ballad. A great example of the way he can slip effortlessly into different styles and hit the spot each time. Lyrically it's very maudlin and Tom's voice adds world weariness to proceedings.
An accordion intro to the title track before a jerky and unnerving guitar comes in while Tom barks like one of his rain Dogs, whatever they are. The music on offer can be a very acquired taste and tracks like this can make you feel slightly on edge due to the odd time signatures.
An unholy racket with a brass section sounding like its being played by Chimps, luckily it's only about a minute long. Phew
9th and Hennepin
Another short one, this sounds like a score from a 70s horror film about an evil child, all plink plonk piano and a grim droning noise in the background. Over the top of this Tom delivers a short story about another of his seedy characters that seem to only come out at night.
Gun Street Square
A stripped down blues effort here all guitar, bass and err banjo. Tom's voice was built for blues, dripping in sorrow and loss.
A 50s rock n roll feel here with a guitar that could almost be Johnny B Goode.
Blimey it's all gone country, not my fave style of music but its tolerable in very small doses. Almost surprising Tom hasn't ventured here more often seeing as it's just the blues for inbreeds.
Heading into Beefheart/ Zappa territory here with this jazzy beatnik track. I'm not a fan of people using streams of consciousness, usually just sounds a bit mad. But when the likes of Tom or Mark E Smith do it their words take on a life of their own. So well done.
The standout track on offer and possible the only one that was written as a song using instruments as opposed to whatever was in the studio bins. A bit of a slow burner as a gentle guitar intro slowly builds up into what some could call a rock ballad but I prefer to call a storming song. Lyrically it's a very tender love song that doesn't even come close to sounding cheesy or sickly. With a voice like that I don't think he could if he wanted anyway.
Bride of Rain Dogs
Another short instrumental with a large dose of accordion again.
Anywhere I lay My Head
Final track is another over dose on the accordion (he must have been sponsored my Accordions R Us). It's a slow dirge really and a disappointing end to a great album and Tom's combination of howl and growl is boarding on annoying here.
So to sum up, it's hard to sum up.
It's a great album full of diverse styles that shows Toms full range. Lyrically its very odd with stories about people you would expect to be confined to big books called " Freaks " but they are all crafted with care and you could almost believe they live in the same world as us.
For a beginner to Tom Waits it can be hard to just jump into, so personally I'd recommend Closing Time as an introduction. Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa fans could feel at home here (but if you like them you probably have this anyway).
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Clap Hands
3 Cemetery Polka
4 Jockey Full Of Bourbon
5 Tango Till They're Sore
6 Big Black Mariah - Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits
7 Diamonds And Gold
8 Hang Down Your Head
9 Time - Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits
10 Rain Dogs
12 9th & Hennepin
13 Gun Street Girl - Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits
14 Union Square
15 Blind Love
16 Walking Spanish
17 Downtown Train
18 Bride Of Rain Dog
19 Anywhere I Lay My Head