Well thissun gets my vote for bestie of the early Tom Waits albums. Mostly because everything is gosh darn NEGATIVE, which pretty much takes my pants off and does me silly. Yes, to my ears sadness and alcoholism is all that and an Australian accent. Canada has to be the one country where speaking French doesn’t get you laid, because Canadian French is really ugly, and Mr. Growlvoice is here and he’s not going back from making his speech sounds like a string of “r”s in various pitches, so let’s dig it. How downcast and noisy we are! It’s negative while still all sad and loungy and shit. Song topics include being sad and lonely and drunk overseas, the emptiness of advertising to being a drunk to um….being a drunk again, I don’t know, being a drunk again…
And still it’s all sadplaying, all piano and shit. The album starts with a real 1-2 punch, first the overrated “Tom Traubert’s Blues”, a story of perhaps a vacation gone wrong, in any case a crooning sadly in a foreign land, with a gorgeous yet catchy chorus of an off-kilter Waltzing Matilda, then the snappy “Stop Right Up”, the liveliest song here, featuring a bippity eight-note jazzy bass line over and over with Tom deftly rapping (in the long lost Dylany manner) of a miracle product and all the things it can do. It takes down oh so much in two tracks.
But then the real fun starts! Lots of slow, miserable songs but clever clever clever songs, anthropomorphic carpets and rice and beans and bad times waiting to happen. How much of music history is summed up by the song title “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”! About fifty percent, I tell you. The rest is “I could be having sex right now!” Now there isn’t much of that here, but I feel like this old Tom Waits would be too serious for old me and my pretentious ways and and my way of trying too hard. Heck, every note he sings he sounds too tired to keep it going for too long, like he could be belting them out but is too tired to do so. A studio trick, and a damned good one.
I have nothing bad to say about this album except this bad thing I have to say about this album: Tom struck gold with subtitling one of the songs (the opener “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen) and went crazyfaces with the subtitling of most of the other songs. “Jitterbug Me (Sharing a Curbstone with Chuck E. Weiss, Robert Marchese, Paul Body and the Mug and Artie)”? Gah! “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening With Pete King)”? Neither subtitle was necessary! “I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work (And See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue)” and “I With I Was in New Orleans (in the Ninth Ward)”? The subtitles add nothing blarghh stab you, song title.
Okay, but that’s just a note. Tom Waits understands your pain and is too sad and cool for it, here. Oh, I know he quit drinking after this album, but what did I just tell you? Sadness is the swizzle stick of all my favourite songs, and this album has it in rivers. The songs are alright, too.