When I think of my favorite stuff by Tom Waits, I always look back to the time when the writing and arranging of his songs were more playful, avant pop exercises, colored by a range of intense and deep emotional swatches, yet always with humor. My favorite stretch in his catalog of work is from Swordfishtrombones to Franks Wild Years (Marc Ribot?). Songs were always off-kilter, tenuous, unpredictable...far-away organs played against a punchy latin rhumba beat...oh, here comes the circus, jolted by a bended-note/feedback guitar part. Wha?
I heard a lot more characters in his voice, too. The sideshow barker, the Ironweed hobo, the cocky but sensitive playboy, or the frustrated, suburbia-warped freespirit looking to make a break.
This track off Franks Wild Years feels like an old, worn out, spaghetti western-inspired guitar shuffle. Its whispered from the lips of a grizzled shopkeeper in a soon-to-be ghosttown, telling his concerned companion the need to reach for where your dreams dwell: "out where your enemies lie." There's little consolation against what most likely will be an exercise in futility, but necessary nonetheless, to carve out some sort of happiness. Get used to it.
This is a great song to listen to on days when nothing seems to be going right. In my case: when driving my blind sister around in a delapidated taxi, with broken windows, and a gas meter on empty. The best line in my opinion is: "Blind or crippled, Sharp or dull. I'm reading the Bible by a 40 watt bulb. What price freedom. Dirt is my rug.
Well I sleep like a baby with the snakes and the bugs". I love this track! Keith Richards played lead guitar and sings backing vox on this one. Their voices/styles mesh together very well. It's one of the more bluesy tracks on the record, but it's done very well...not like a lame neo-white boy blues revival thing. It's actually believable...after all, IT'S TOM WAITS FOR CHRIST SAKE! I think this is one of the more powerful songs on the record. Well...maybe a toss-up between this one and "Chocolate Jesus"...or "Hold on"...or "Get Behind the Mule" (you can't beat the lyric: "Punctuated birds on the power line. In a Studebaker with the Birdie Joe Joaks. I'm diggin all the way to China with a silver spoon, while the hangman fumbles with the noose..."). Hell...it's just a damn good record.