Tom Waits
Franks Wild Years


3.5
great

Review

by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
December 20th, 2006 | 25 replies


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The third instalment of Tom Waits’ ‘80s trilogy continues in the same vein as Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs, but fails to reach the same musical heights, although it manages to stand well enough on its own.

The 80’s trilogy, as it is sometimes called, was a monumental achievement for Tom Waits. His new approach to songwriting was immensely innovative, and strengthened the atmosphere of his world of underdogs and castaways. Swordfishtrombones introduced the new style, Rain Dogs brought it to perfection. Where does this leave Franks Wild Years"

Truth be told, it comes off as a bit of an afterthought. It is a great album, but few regard it with the same reverence as they do the other two masterpieces. As a part of a trilogy, it stands as a weak album in comparison. Note, if you please, that I wrote ‘in comparison’. You can hardly fault Tom Waits for not putting out a third brilliant masterpiece in a row. Franks is a wonderful album in its own right, and has its fair share of gems. Just don’t expect it to be as good as Rain Dogs. Tom Waits is at his best when he experiments with his sound. It’s as if the albums lose some of their punch when he becomes too comfortable in a certain style of writing his material. Several of his albums suffer from this: Foreign Affairs, Blue Valentine, Blood Money and this album for instance (the latter two to a lesser degree). He is a consistently great artist, but no artist should be stuck in the same style for too long, especially not one as inherently experimental and curious as Tom Waits. Mule Variations is the exception that proves the rule, standing as the most successful Waits album that looks back instead of forwards.

Now, on to the sounds of the album. It’s quite easy to see Franks Wild Years as an extension of Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. You’ll hear most of the aspects of Tom Waits’ broad-spectrum assault weapon (as Tom Moon described his voice) on the album. Added to his famous growl, he now sings through a megaphone on some tracks (Opener “Hang On Saint Christopher” for one), for an even more distorted sound. These songs were written for a play like the songs on “Alice” and “Blood Money”. And like those albums, Franks Wild Years plays just fine without a play to accompany it. It does stand on its own quite well.

Franks Wild Years as an album may not be indispensable, but some of the songs are. Listen to “I’ll Be Gone” a frantic, accordion-driven tale and one of the most engaging songs on the album. The lyrics are as entertaining as the song itself. “Temptation” showcases Tom Waits’ howling falsetto, or as he likes to call it “his Prince voice”. It’s a terrific ballad and easily one of the albums strong points. “Hang On Saint Christopher” kicks off the album nicely with distorted vocals, as if through a megaphone, over a horn-driven backing. Several songs are worthwhile, but the album is arguably too favored towards ballads.

It is simply bogged down by moments of boredom. The tracks “Innocent When You Dream”, a heart-warming ballad, and “Straight to the Top”, a swing-band Frank Sinatra parody, are both played in two different versions on the album. The versions are different, but it’s still not necessary to repeat them, especially in the case of “Straight to the Top” since it isn’t really that good of a song. Other than that it’s simply a case of less potent song writing than on the two previous albums. As an album, it stands well on its own and contains a lot of magnificent songs, but it simply doesn’t compare to Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs.



Recent reviews by this author
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Some Loud ThunderRoxy Music Siren
Tiger Tunes Absolutely Worthless Compared to Important BooksBob Dylan Street Legal
David Bowie Hunky DoryLeonard Cohen Dear Heather
user ratings (289)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sepstrup
December 20th 2006


1567 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Let me know what you think. Which Waits album should I do next?

Jawaharal
December 20th 2006


1832 Comments


Good review.

Review Real Gone or Mule Variations next.

Sepstrup
December 20th 2006


1567 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Mule Variations has a good review already. I might do Real Gone, hmm.

AlienEater
December 20th 2006


716 Comments


Great review.

I still don't have anything by him except Rain Dogs.

Zebra
Moderator
December 20th 2006


2647 Comments


I haven't heard a song off of this.

italic zero
December 20th 2006


31 Comments


you have to do Small Change next obviously, then Real Gone, then Nighthawks at the Diner

Two-Headed Boy
December 20th 2006


4527 Comments


My dad has his entire discography, so I have a few listens to go through before this but so far everything I hear is fantastic.

Oy, and nice review, punk.This Message Edited On 12.20.06

Sepstrup
December 21st 2006


1567 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I have everything except Night on Earth (I have the movie though) and The Black Rider.

Jimmy
January 22nd 2008


726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love this album. Great mix of folk, polka and insanity.

tomwaits4noman
April 1st 2008


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Franks wild years is like the neglected one among Swordfish trombones and Rain dogs



I think its more consistent... in sound... there are some real gems here....



good review think you could have given more details about the songs..

shindip
April 4th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Innocent When You dream is amazing.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
November 16th 2011


7637 Comments


Franks wild years is like the neglected one among Swordfish trombones and Rain dogs [2]


Indeed, there are some real gems in here, like "Hang On St. Christopher ", "Way Down In The Hole", "Temptation".

sinsexsodomy
July 31st 2013


263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

trim off Please Wake Me Up, Franks Theme, and the two repeats and this would be an even better album

imo. still a good listen, not consistent though.

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
September 26th 2013


14904 Comments


IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIM GOING STRAIIIGHT TO THE TOP

Digging: Glassjaw - Material Control

JokineAugustus
January 9th 2015


8630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is barely talked about :/

deathschool
January 9th 2015


21929 Comments


Gotta check. Trying to digest his pre-Swordfish stuff right now, but I'm coming for this soon.

JokineAugustus
January 9th 2015


8630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

blue valentines is my favourite pre swordfish

NorthernSkylark
January 9th 2015


8678 Comments


yeah mine too (so far), three last songs on that one are so damn powerful

Digging: Girl Ray - Earl Grey

deathschool
January 9th 2015


21929 Comments


Waits has albums that are considered classics from three different decades. (Maybe even 4) Are there any other artists that can even say that? There may be but I can't think of any

JokineAugustus
January 9th 2015


8630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Romeo is Bleeding is my favourite on BV



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy