There are two kinds of folks on this rock: Those who love Tom Waits and everybody else.
Tom Waits fans have a… Well, I wouldn’t call it a connection (we’re all misanthropes at some level, of course), but we do share a particular regard for one another. See, to put on a Waits record is to set sail in a tempest without a compass– or like shaving a mountain lion… It takes guts and imagination.
In 1984, Tom sequestered himself in a Lower Manhattan basement and created, Frankenstein-like, the songs that would become Rain Dogs. While most popular musics of the 1980s were over-synthed, push-button, sterile affairs, Waits wanted real sounds from actual animals. He utilized whatever was handy– sticks & stones, banjos, Keith Richards… The result is a crusty oeuvre that passes melodic mustard while smashing glass.
Delivered in a trademark throat-wrapped-in-barbed-wire growl, Rain Dogs features sophisticated cacophony with real spit. Crunchy calliope numbers bob geek-like beside blood & bourbon-soaked second line anthems while a few pop jewels shine throughout.
Rain Dogs was the first Tom Waits album I ever bought (at a Best Buy, dig it), but I had no idea what I was stepping into. Rain Dogs clanks, plonks, honky tonks, smooths out, wrings your wrists, rends your expectations, moans madly, descends into carnival carnality, ascends to the lip of the gutter before dragging you back down into the ditch. It squishes and squelches wet and gritty, a walk on a winter beach with a hole in your boot– and then it amps and burns, reeking like a tire fire or a hot radiator.
I miss the sonic promiscuity of my youth that led me to such sensations. But then again, Tom Waits fans know a not-so-secret truth. Wanna hear it? Listen to Rain Dogs.