Album Reviews of the 80s

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Tom Waits, "Swordfishtrombone" / 1983 Review by: Devin
Huh? Wha? The gruff drunkard we've come to love and dismiss suddenly ambushes us with dissonant noise, lyrical depth, musical variety, and fearful storytelling. Influenced by Harry Partch, a quirky loner who invented bizarre new instruments which have more in common with a Rube Goldberg mousetrap than an orchestra, Waits encloses us 'round with an unexpectedly delightful garden of delightful illustrations of broken-down life. But unlike previous efforts, now Waits's musical pallette is much, much broader. Listening to this album is like listening to Laurie Anderson's performance art-y music, if only she wasn't female, didn't use any synthesizers, had a very gravelly voice and used more traditional song forms. But otherwise extremely similar. Delightful morsels from Swordfishtrombone include the brass-band-y In The Neighborhood, the twisted, jagged Shore Leave, the clumsy yet primal-screaming Underground, the beat poem Frank's Wild Years, and many many more. If you're looking for Top 40 Hits, stay away! If you're looking for quirky sorrow sung by a larynx doused with turpentine, this is your album!

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