Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years

Little Myles’ first Tom Waits album, and to this day – by far – not one of my goddamned favourites. It’s regarded as the third and last album of Tom’s early-weird trilogy, and deals with a character we saw earlier setting fire to his suburban house and hating his blind chihuahua. Here we see him in earlier times, dreaming big and not doing all that much about it other than having Christian moral dilemmas and thinking about New York.
It’s all very literary – the concept of this character dreaming and being in time is rather Philip Glass and my favourite song here, “Innocent When You Dream” is rather Joycean. It might be as bookish as Tom gets, but while I consider that a good thing, the problem here is that too many of the songs don’t have enough to hold them together. Often it’s such some weird percussion, accordion doodling, and a wish. And that doesn’t make for a great song, Thomas! There’s two versions of the meh “Straight to the Top”, an unnecessary second version of the great “Innocent When You Dream”, and a squath of forgettable songs from nowhere to nowhere. They’re all interesting because it’s Tom Waits, but really this album is held together by a sparse population of great songs instead of a mode of greatness.

And what great songs! Opener “Hang On St. Christopher” even if we all know it’s great 90% because of that ultragreat ba-na-na-ba-baaaaaaaaaaaaaa horn riff that changes the length of its last note depending on how excited it wants to make the listener. “Innocent When You Dream” is a crazy, crazily sad show tune, “Yesterday Is Here” broods along with a threat, and “Way Down in the Hole” rides some great lyrics and another off-kilter, fantastic horn riff.

But that’s IT. I don’t like Tom’s falsetto and he uses it for an entire song. He repeats things too often. I’m going to erase most of this album when I’m done. Maybe it’s indicative of poor Frank, failing to make it big and moving back home to get married and await an eventual breakdown.

Ahh, getting married having kids and moving to the suburbs. It’s a tough choice we face here in North America. I, for example, could easily get married, have kids, and move to the suburbs right now, or I could continue napping in parks, drinking to excess, having sex on strange couches, and eating poutine at four in the morning… Hey, that isn’t a tough choice at all! I’m going to go with option B as long as I can because I have a SOUL. Of course, we mostly end up as Frank someday, going crazy over losing our wild years. That’s just a small part of the immense bleakness we shall never overcome.



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