Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (1983)
Stellar logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming
There’s only one Tom Waits.
My high school principal agrees.
When I was chatting with him during the recent exam period, it was clear he was battling a cold.
So, naturally, I observed, “you’ve got a nice Tom Waits rasp today.”
To which he chuckled, and promptly disagreed, saying there’s actually something really beautiful about Waits’s delivery.
Can’t argue with that. There’s only one Tom Waits.
Within the next few days, battling a cold of my own, I was chatting with some other colleagues at school.
One remarked/asked the rhetorical question, “you’ve got a cold?”
I, rather immodestly, replied, “yeah I’ve got a bit of a Tom Waits raspiness today.”
To which my friend Emily immediately disagreed, “actually, you sound like a post-pubescent Kermit.”
Sadly, I couldn’t argue with that.
There’s only one Tom Waits (quantity of post-pubescent Kermits unknown).
With Swordfishtrombones, Waits sounds like Tom Waits, as evidently, only he can.
But it may not matter.
With Elvis Costello, I had trouble distinguishing between what made for a decent/good/very good Costello recording, as I was left with similar impressions from each.
I suppose the same could be said for Tom Waits, in that I’m not sure how easy it is to tell a career peak from a valley.
The big difference?
I think I could play a Costello record at any time, in any context, and have similar listening experience.
If I was in the unenviable situation of being in a Costello mood but somehow without access to any Costello records, there are several artists that would likely qualify as decent substitutes.
But with Waits, as I’ve learned this week, the context matters.
For maximum enjoyment, I’ve got to be in the mood.
But if I’m in the mood for Waits, absolutely nothing else will suffice.
There’s only one of him, after all.
He may sound like Cookie Monster…but at least he doesn’t sound like a post-pubescent Kermit.
Verbalize the Positive
I appreciate that many people I chat with in person inadvertently help me organize my thoughts for so many of these reviews. Even when those conversations result in me being the punchline!
From → 1980s