Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Book Review :Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones by David Smay (33 1/3, No.53)
Tom Waits is one artist which I adore. At least once a year I will spend a month or so listening to most of his back catalogue (well from Swordfish onwards). When i'm in the mood his music will enrapture me and create false worlds sprouting up. While Swordfishtrombones is one record i like immensely my personal fave has to go to Blood Money.
I was curious to see how Smay would tackle the album and I admit I had doubts if one could pull off an appreciation of such a record and not sound arse-lickey or descend into tiresome Waits cliches ( his voice, his love for blues and so on)but I was amazed. Smay not only gives the reader a whole new angle on Waits but also manages to create the same feel as a Swordfish.... within his writing style. Sometimes dark, sometimes freaky, cool and casual. This is the true masterstroke of the book itself. Not only does Smay pay homage to Waits but also devotes chunks to the muse that saved Waits and made him the musician that he is today - his wife Kathleen.
Although Smay does not interview Waits and uses past articles as resources ( plus one e-mail interview with sleeve designer Michael Russ)he is well informed about Waits' life and shows a genuine love for Swordfishtrombones. I also liked the fact that his other albums are compared and critically assessed ( mostly Rain Dogs though)
After the mighty Celine Dion tome I was expecting a comedown but this book was a refreshing change. I wonder how Drew Daniel's volume about Throbbing Gristle will fare.