17 Songs, 56 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As Tom Waits albums go, Franks Wild Years is a weird one — and this is Tom Waits we’re talking about. Subtitled “un operachi romantico in two acts", “Franks Wild Years,”  the musical play written with his wife Kathleen Brennan, only survives as a cast of 15 tunes (two repeated in differing arrangements) that advance no plot beyond Waits’ expected dispersion of unlucky hustlers and lost-in-time dreamers who seem to have emerged from a circus or carnival with nothing left but their nerve. While Waits’ career took a left turn with 1983’s Swordfishtrombones and its ragged junkyard clang, with 1987’s Franks Wild Years Waits immersed himself in decadent cabaret where pump organs, marimbas and freaky vocal effects make him sound even more demented than usual. The songs impart terrible loneliness (“Train Song,” “Innocent When You Dream”), yet Waits often seems to be having a blast as he bellows with all his heart. Musically, “Hang On St. Christopher” sounds like a train’s steam engine pumping down the tracks, while the solemn, majestic guitar lines of ‘Yesterday is Here” add an aura of beautiful doom. The Sinatra-on-a-bender lounge act of “Straight to the Top” and “I’ll Take New York” sends things off a surrealist cliff. You just need to hang on.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As Tom Waits albums go, Franks Wild Years is a weird one — and this is Tom Waits we’re talking about. Subtitled “un operachi romantico in two acts", “Franks Wild Years,”  the musical play written with his wife Kathleen Brennan, only survives as a cast of 15 tunes (two repeated in differing arrangements) that advance no plot beyond Waits’ expected dispersion of unlucky hustlers and lost-in-time dreamers who seem to have emerged from a circus or carnival with nothing left but their nerve. While Waits’ career took a left turn with 1983’s Swordfishtrombones and its ragged junkyard clang, with 1987’s Franks Wild Years Waits immersed himself in decadent cabaret where pump organs, marimbas and freaky vocal effects make him sound even more demented than usual. The songs impart terrible loneliness (“Train Song,” “Innocent When You Dream”), yet Waits often seems to be having a blast as he bellows with all his heart. Musically, “Hang On St. Christopher” sounds like a train’s steam engine pumping down the tracks, while the solemn, majestic guitar lines of ‘Yesterday is Here” add an aura of beautiful doom. The Sinatra-on-a-bender lounge act of “Straight to the Top” and “I’ll Take New York” sends things off a surrealist cliff. You just need to hang on.

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