idiosyncratic American style.
Rain Dogs offers a dangerous world, nasty for the tough sailors in "Singapore" ("Don't fall asleep while you're ashore"), infinitely sad for the hustlers of New York's "Union Square" and no fun at all in jail. The music is bony and menacingly beautiful, the desultory electric-guitar solo as cold as the rattle of marimbas in "Clap Hands." The evocative, elliptical rhymes describe scenes and characters with poetic precision but use atmosphere, not narrative, to connect them. Waits' expanded palette culls spy-movie jazz in the instrumental "Midtown," with the saxophone screaming, possibly, for its life to be spared. It's hard to hear "Downtown Train" without accepting the inevitability of Rod Stewart's Top Ten cover -- Waits must be used to strange bedfellows -- but it's quirky near-pop, the all-pro instrumentation pushing Waits' not-so-melodic but surprisingly flexible vocals out front, where his own peculiar freak flag, his big heart and his romantic optimism gloriously fly.
(RS 907 - October 17, 2002)