Friday, December 10, 2004


New Coat of Paint

by Glenn Cripes

It's hard making records. It's a lot of work. I feel bad sometimes shooting my mouth off about albums people make. It's not like my last LP was any good.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.....

I like Tom Waits. I like him a lot. He makes me laugh, and that gets mucho points at Casa Cripes. Most singer-songwriters just dog paddle in a pool of the crapulence of their feelings. Not Tom. He writes stories and conjures up characters and amusing scenarios. There are other songwriters who do this--Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright come to mind. Both are very skillful and their songs can be funny and profound, but there isn't anything really cool about them. There's nothing anyone would want to emulate with those guys, whereas Tom is all wiseguy with no dorky aftertaste.

I think that people identify with the idea of Tom Waits, and the music itself becomes secondary. It's a great feeling to think you're ahead of the pack tastewise. You get a cool buzz taking a Waits disc up to the counter at the record store. It's a statement. You are telling the guy at the counter that you don't go for that silly crap that everyone else buys. But when all is said and done, Tom Waits records are more often than not one or two really good songs and the rest is padded with persona.

Step right up!

Which brings me to our album of the week.

Swordfishtrombones is the first of Tom Wait's Toolshed of Sound albums. Tom had pretty much squeezed all the juice he could out of the cocktail piano bar Bukowski character he did so well. Albums like Foreign Affairs and Blue Valentines were showing wear at the seams. Swordfishtrombones debuts Tom's cacophonous, toss it and see what sticks style, and it's the blueprint of everything he's released since. He's actually been doing this circus noise now longer than he did his original schtick.

I'm on my third re-hearing of Swordfishtrombones as I type this. I took track by track notes and I'm just not finding any good songs here. Tom has just moved his Raymond Chandler rewrites from his usual dive bar to a weirdo tiki watering hole where steel drummers drown their sorrows.

Town With No Cheer is just a rewrite of Invitation To The Blues, and In The Neighborhood is a maudlin rehash of Shiver Me Timbers.

The only real keeper for me is Frank's Wild Years, a one minute, fifty three second tale of a guy who burned his house down. Funny stuff with great timing. One of Tom's best tricks is the way he punctuates his monologues with a well timed cough. He later turned Frank's Wild Years into a full blown (cough) stage show.

I applaud Tom for trying to keep it fresh, but I say go directly to Rain Dogs, the album that followed. That one's a keeper. See you dummyheads next week!

dummyheads? hey we're not the ones who made up the word "tastewise".
Great review as usual. Glenny is the combination of opposites. He is both a HIT and a MYTH!
Ruth Goldflarb (Secretary, Glenn Cripes Fan Club)
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