Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yeah, More Waits, But Come On, Raindogs! - 30 Years Ago

This is one of the most beautiful, ugly, fascinating, mutated, stunning, demanding, rewarding, eclectic albums ever. Play it backwards, play it forwards, play it sideways, it is a gift to our small eccentric planet from a very wild place just inside one's skull, a place only Waits can conjure up. Go there. Rain Dogs includes "Jockey Full of Bourbon," the theme song from the underground film Down By Law in which Waits was an actor. "Time" is one of the saddest and most beautiful songs like ever; goes straight to the soul and out the other side. The title cut sears itself into one's head and refuses to vacate; its sleazy back beat gives it a uniquely suave(?, better adjective here) tone, while at the same time remaining honest or simply complex or something. "Downtown Train" was later covered by Rod Stewart and received much radio play; but that's a whole different song than this. 

Waits uses his lyrics to paint pictures, not as an impressionist, but as a modern realist. He doesn't see someone dying their hair (that would be fascinating enough); he doesn't see them dying their hair in a bathroom; they're dying their hair in the bathroom of a sleazy Texaco. His gargled-razorblade-vocals fitting the lyrics into a sprawling yowl and growl that's a perfect match to a strangled, jolting, blues-twanged and even, at times, invariably smooth instrumental train. This crazy excellent 1985 album is a cycle of mummbly, sad luck-country ("Time," "Blind Love"), explosive blues ("Union Square," "Big Black Mariah"), ghostly night-folk ("Clap Hands," "Gun Street Girl"), and miscellaneous horror ("Anywhere I Lay My Head," "Singapore"). Throughout this absolute trip of an LP, there is never a moment that seems forced or exaggeratedly artsy. Rain Dogs displays one of music's most astonishing mad geniuses at the height of his power. Nothing's been the same these 30 years, like nothing was the same after Pepper.

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