Round 17 - vote for your LEAST favorites

  • Underground

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Singapore

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Clap Hands

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Cemetery Polka

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Jockey Full of Bourbon

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Time

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Hang on St. Christopher

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Temptation

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Innocent When You Dream

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'll Be Gone

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yesterday Is Here

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Franks Theme

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • More Than Rain

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Way Down in the Hole

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Telephone Call from Istanbul

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Cold Cold Ground

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    2
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MrKnickerbocker

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ELIMINATED in Round 12:
Dave the Butcher
Just Another Sucker on the Vine
Trouble's Braids
Rainbirds

One more round of voting because the next album has 19 songs!
 

MrKnickerbocker

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Kill your darlings! I'm going for everything that isn't a 10/10 for me:

Downtown
Johnsburg, IL
Town With No Cheer
In the Neighborhood
Down x3
Gin-Soaked Boy
 

MrKnickerbocker

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ELIMINATED after Round 13:
Downtown
Town with No Cheer
Down, Down, Down
Gin-Soaked Boy

PROMOTED:
Heartattack and Vine
On the Nickel
Jersey Girl

And now onto the album where I got my namesake...

Rain Dogs (1985)

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The follow-up to Swordfishtrombones features a sprawling 19-song journey across the world and is considered by many to be Tom's ultimate achievement. It is the second in a trilogy of very loose concept albums and was written entirely in New York. Tom further explores the sonic landscapes he introduced on the last album, while pushing even further out into international waters and plunging the depths of "the urban dispossessed."

Organic recordings and musicality litter Rain Dogs, from the sound of a creaking chair to walls and doors being beaten with two-by-fours. This record couldn't be more out of place in the synthesizer-heavy, electronically-minded mid-1980s. A timelessness drifts throughout these tracks and much of that is due to the raw nature of the production.

Legendary session musician Marc Ribot makes his first appearance on a Tom Waits record and most of his takes were on the first or second try. Tom's looseness and openness to new ideas (or mistakes) allows Ribot a high level of oddball freedom in the guitar sounds that would come to define this new era in the discography. Apparently, one of Tom's instructions to the guitarist was to play a song "like a midget's bar mitzvah." Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones also makes his first appearance with Tom, playing guitar on a few tracks (Big Black Mariah, Union Square, and Blind Love) and throwing down some vocals on Blind Love. Kathleen Brennan also receives her first co-writing credit for Hang Down Your Head.

Rain Dogs is dense, dramatic, and damn near perfect. It's an album for getting lost.

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Down in the Hole podcast, Rain Dogs part 1
Down in the Hole podcast, Rain Dogs part 2
Song by Song podcast, Rain Dogs playlist
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Such a good album. The arrangements on here are incredible. It feels like intense thought was put into every single note until it was perfect. So many infectious rhythms and instrumentation choices that can only be found on this album. Very few albums have managed to create a sonic world quite like this. Cutting it down to three songs will be an awful task.

I get a lot of Captain Beefheart influence from Waits. The loose performances and sometimes schizophrenic structures are very similar to Trout Mask Replica. Not to mention Waits' erratic vocal style.

Marc Ribot is awesome btw, one of my favorite recent discoveries. This live album with him and his band is great. He also played with John Zorn, who's influence you can very much hear on Midtown.


(Also on guitar, the even more underappreciated and great Mary Halvorson)
 

MrKnickerbocker

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Such a good album. The arrangements on here are incredible. It feels like intense thought was put into every single note until it was perfect. So many infectious rhythms and instrumentation choices that can only be found on this album. Very few albums have managed to create a sonic world quite like this. Cutting it down to three songs will be an awful task.

I get a lot of Captain Beefheart influence from Waits. The loose performances and sometimes schizophrenic structures are very similar to Trout Mask Replica. Not to mention Waits' erratic vocal style.

No doubt Waits was heavily influenced by Beefheart around this time. He manages to take Beefheart's approach and make it his own, though, even if his "voice" isn't as refined as it will be a few albums down the line.

As for the arrangements, the magic of Rain Dogs is that I can never tell if a song was meticulously arranged or floundered through to completion and then simply left untouched for oddity. Having read a lot of interviews, I think the truth lies somewhere in between. Ribot has said that Tom often instructed his band to play more loosely around the notes, that perfect pitch and scale selection wasn't what he wanted. Apparently Tom loved some mistakes in playing and kept them on the final record. He also didn't rehearse much (or at all) with the band before recording because he wanted the playing to be spontaneous and organic. Hearing some of Ribot's other playing, this makes sense because it's not always as avant-garde as it is on Tom's records. Some of the parts we so love on these records could be mistakes that make the players cringe, but Tom heard his identity in those misfit sounds.
 

MrKnickerbocker

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I'll return with a full analysis when I get some more time, but for now I'll throw my votes in the ring for:

Johnsburg, IL
In The Neighborhood
Midtown
9th & Hennepin
Union Square
Blind Love
Bride of Rain Dog
 

MrKnickerbocker

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ELIMINATED in Round 14:
Midtown
9th & Hennepin
Blind Love
Bride of Rain Dog

Gotta weed this down some more, folks. Here's hoping more people join in or that everyone keeps voting...
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
I have no idea how we're going to manage to chop this down to three songs each. Way too much good material here. That being said, listening to Rain Dogs more (and with a more critical ear) it has become apparent that the back half isn't nearly as strong as the first half. It's still good after Midtown, but the best material is definitely on side 1. If I had to pick three songs right now to promote, I would probably (reluctantly) choose Clap Hands, Time, and Downtown Train.

From Swordfishtrombones, I'm voting to promote Underground, In the Neighborhood, and the title track. Also a very strong album, but here the three favorites stick out a bit more to me.
 

MrKnickerbocker

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I have no idea how we're going to manage to chop this down to three songs each. Way too much good material here. That being said, listening to Rain Dogs more (and with a more critical ear) it has become apparent that the back half isn't nearly as strong as the first half. It's still good after Midtown, but the best material is definitely on side 1.

I wouldn't be shocked if we see 4-5 of these Rain Dogs songs sticking around until the very end of the game, and it would be justified. It's just that strong of an album!

*16 Shells...

Whoops! Poor copy/paste job on my part :facepalm:
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Alright, let's resurrect this behemoth!

Singapore – Darkness and madness greet us immediately with this first track as Tom gives birth to his true voice. The lyrics are insane poetry regarding ships, far off places, drinking, and of course, midgets. Singapore is a masterpiece of mood and musicality. The percussion, the horns that come in towards the last third of the song, and the sound effects of a thunderstorm falling over the land is the perfect setup to this album. A lovely set piece. 10/10

Clap Hands – Slightly dustier and rustier than the previous track, this one feels like a graveyard spell. It sounds like a traditional song was written, recorded, and then completely dissected and recreated by a bunch of skeletons. Who knows what’s happening here: maybe an ode to someone long gone, maybe another portrait of a small town (somewhere in carnival hell), but it’s another brilliant piece of music. The sheer amount of instruments contained within this subtle dirge is impressive. It feels to me like a song about things that are gone, things that are lost, whatever those things may be, and the bittersweet celebrating we do around them. Plus, I’m in it! 10/10

Cemetery Polka – Speaking of death: here comes Tom’s semi-autobiographical list of his terrible family members. It’s complete with a German impressionist stomp and some insane accordion and guitar work by the impeccable Marc Ribot. The lyrics describe the family you hope you never have and the music expresses the feeling that lies deep inside you at every family funeral. Another treasure of weirdness. 10/10

Jockey Full of Bourbon – The most traditional recording yet, Jockey swings along like a Latin jazz bopper. I feel like this song deserves to be played during the end credits of Casablanca. The groove is insatiable and the guitar playing simply breathtaking. It’s another wordly-focused, vaguely pirate-themed track with lyrics of bar brawls, guns, and far flung adventure. Like the rest of this album so far the music is full of life, always moving, layered beyond belief. It’s easy to get the idea that all of these songs are connected lyrically and musically, with references here tying back to the first three songs and later songs (Downtown Train). I don’t even care that I’m lost in the wilderness here, it’s a great track. Ribot’s guitar solo is beautiful. 10/10

Tango Till They’re Sore – A drunken piano intro leads into a New Orleans blues swagger. This is one of my favorite Waits songs ever due to the wonderfully subtle rising melody and descending horn lines. It’s a truly special piece of work. I get the feeling this song deals with a rambler, a gambler who lives on his sixth bourbon at all times and cares drifting in the wind. At the end, however, he just wants to rest for a good long while. Tom’s lyricism is utterly astounding in the way it paints a picture without telling a direct story. 10/10

Big Black Mariah - Here’s the first traditional blues track that we all knew was coming. Tom gets his best carnival barker on to shout a warning about that hearse speeding down the road to collect the poor souls who’ve had enough. Keith Richards plays guitar here, adding some steady yet unwieldy blues jamming to the mix. Mariah gives us a light reprieve from the complexity of the first five songs. 10/10

Diamonds & Gold – The madness returns on this chaotic waltz, but it lacks a strong, catchy melody. I love the lyrics, but they don’t sit as well within the stumbling music as they do on other tracks. It’s a nice mood piece, but not a standout. 7/10

Hang Down Your Head – Shades of Bruce Springsteen (with an accordion) begin here with this straightforward rocker. Kathleen Brennan gets her first co-writing credit and it shows through in the lyrics: it’s a direct snapshot of emotion without being overtly sentimental. It’s easy to see her influence, pushing Tom to keep his romanticism in check while simultaneously streamlining the structure. It’s a good song, not a great one, but it is catchy and Ribot plays another wonderful, simple solo. 8/10

Time – Acoustic guitar strums and heartfelt lyrics take us back to the classic days of Tom’s singer/songwriter era. Time feels like a love letter to every Waits ballad that came before (Matilda even returns here). It’s a slow emotional journey that could chronicle a tired musician’s pining for something more, or a drunk’s ascent back into normality, or honestly anything else that might fit. The lyrics are purposefully murky but the sense of loss mixed with the sense of hope is the point here. Time could be a redemption song or an apology, but either way the whole thing sounds like a sunrise shining a light on what came before without washing it away completely. 10/10

Rain Dogs – A fiery accordion begins a new day, the one started in the previous track, and we fire right into Side Two. Particularly janky guitars and a series of vocal hammers lead this ode to the lost ones, the theme of the entire album. It’s a call to arms for the wandering songs that came before and the ones still to come. A fun, if slightly too sketchy song. 8/10

Midtown – I feel like this would have been a more effective opener to Side Two. It sounds like a wild cab ride during peak film noir era, like a car chase where both cars are missing a wheel. Horns blare and wheeze and die by the side of the road. It’s very cool, but very short. 7/10

9th & Hennepin – Atonal piano and steam lead this spoken word track, ripped from a version of Nighthawks from the darkest timeline. If Time brought Side One to an emotional climax, the first three tracks on Side Two are meant to reframe the album. The first half was worldly, intercontinental and full of vibrant life even in the darkest of times. We seem to be focusing in on a much smaller world full of characters trapped by poor decisions, addictions, rough neighborhoods, dirty city streets…or as we call it, Tom’s Town. This track takes us into the seedy underbelly of an intersection you probably never want to visit. At first, it seems like spouting from one of these downtrodden characters, but the end reveals this to be an observation from an outsider who watches this intersection through the windows of a passing train. It’s almost a perfect metaphor for Tom: he no longer inhabits that world, but he damn sure sees it in his dreams. 8/10

Gun Street Girl – This track lives somewhere between a jailhouse shuffle and deep South blues. The story follows John, who apparently fell in love with a Gun Street girl and did some terrible things before leaving town. It’s a welcome change from the complex lyrics of the rest of the album and also foreshadows a lot of Tom’s later albums in both subject matter and tone. I love the simplicity of this track and the catchiness of the chorus that sounds like a song I’ve known since before birth. 10/10

Union Square – The lesser of the blues tracks on Rain Dogs, Union Square features another appearance of Keith Richards. It seems to be an “outside-looking-in” track about some lesser-than’s wanting to get in on what they got downtown, where the money lives. It’s a fine, fun song but easily one of the weaker moments. 6/10

Blind Love - I guess Keith Richards brings out the country in Tom, because this song could have been released by a lot of different classic southern performers. The chorus has some nice modulation but it gets repetitive. The lyrics are nothing special and could have used a Kathleen re-write. Hell, there’s even a (mostly in-tune) fiddle solo! It really doesn’t sound much like a Tom Waits song. Although I enjoy listening to Blind Love more than a couple others on Rain Dogs, it still sounds like a B-side. 7/10

Walking Spanish – A wonderful blues shuffle about a man headed to the electric chair with his head held high. He never snitched, Broadway’s dimming its lights, the “king” is bowing his head to mourn: this guy was someone of importance. The horn solo is very nice and Tom’s voice is in full character tilt. It’s a song that oozes cool and could have fit perfectly on either Heartattack & Vine or Blue Valentine. 10/10

Downtown Train – Everything about this song sounds like an 80s rock hit except for Tom’s voice. Rod Stewart thought the same thing and later made it a hit. The chunky, but thin guitars, light keyboards, the timing of the drum kit intro, the melody, the guitar line…damn, this is one catchy pop song. G.E. Smith lends some fantastic melodic blues lines throughout. Downtown Train proves that Tom is capable of writing hooky, simple, relatable songs for the radio. It’s the older brother of Jersey Girl and similarly feels like a love ode to Kathleen, even if it probably isn’t. It’s Tom at his most maturely sentimental. 10/10

Bride of Rain Dog – Another instrumental, and this one’s even weirder. It sounds like part of a strange horn, accordion, drum jam that Waits probably fell in love with for some reason. It’s not overly tuneful or enjoyable, but I suppose it’s interesting. Some annoying honks on the horn lead to a weird looped section, maybe looped backwards? 4/10

Anywhere I Lay My Head - This is another one of my all-time favorite Waits songs. You can hear Tom’s throat, heart, guts, and soul in his vocal performance. It’s a soul-stirring song. The worldly travels of this album come to rest in no specific place, they rest anywhere. I love the melody, I love the simple horn accompaniment, and I wish the outro went on for another five minutes. We party our way out of the darkness of this complicated album like a New Orleans funeral parade. It’s the perfect ending and one of my favorite closers of his career. 10/10

Tom Waits simply outdoes himself on Rain Dogs. It’s a near impossible album to top and it’s possibly his crowning achievement.

VOTING FOR:
Johnsburg
Neighborhood
Diamonds
Hang Down Your Head
Rain Dogs
Union Square

Calling @Deus_Adrian, @Shadow, @Niall Kielt, @Detective Beauregard, @Stardust - we need more voters!
 

MrKnickerbocker

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DISCLAIMER/QUESTION: I know that very few of us are left playing this game. When we started, everyone seemed to enjoy the slow pace with which we were moving but I wonder if that hasn't allowed too many to drop off. Would you prefer we move quicker?

Either way, I'm running this thing into the cold, cold ground because it's a nice personal exercise for myself that allows a deeper exploration of the Waits world.

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ELIMINATED in ROUND 15:
Johnsburg, IL
In the Neighborhood
Soldier's Things
Diamonds & Gold
Hang Down Your Head
Union Square

Alright people: we've gotta make some really hard choices now. These songs are all brilliant, but there's still too many to move on to the next album. Kill your darlings. The house is on fire, the children are alone.
 
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