Review Revue: Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years

I fear I may have been a little negative in this space last week. I wasn’t trying to be, it just sort of happened. I’ll blame the ridiculous heat we were undergoing here in Seattle at the time. Seriously, once it gets up into the 90s here it really does something to people’s brains: we might complain about the clouds and rain, but at least we now how to deal with them (we complain). At least it doesn’t feel like we’ve crawled up Satan’s butt to die. But apparently if anyone was upset about my treatment of the Tindersticks, they were also too lethargic from the heat to comment, so I guess we’re even.

Point being, the time has come to bring the love. And when I say love, you know that means Tom Waits. And when I say Tom Waits, of course I mean Jesus (That’s “Chocolate Jesus,” not “Your Own Personal Jesus”). Tom Waits is one of the most iconic, idiosyncratic, genre-defying, trailblazing musical artists of all time, and one of my very favorite human beings. Whether you’re into his early hobo-beatnik years, or his progressively weird later period (which period is now edging up on 30 years long); whether you’re a fan of stark, rhythmic, post-apocalyptic shamanism or heart-wringing ballads; if you are a human being with a beating heart, you will find something to love in Tom Waits.

Frank’s Wild Years is one of the earlier records in the “Weird Tom Waits” oeuvre, completing what has been referred to as the “Frank Trilogy,” which began with 1983’s Swordfishtrombones and continued with Rain Dogs in 1985. If you have not yet, go now and devour these albums and commit them to memory. Then come back and read what the KCMU DJs thought of Frank’s Wild Years back in 1987.

“New stuff from our buddy Tom. And it’s fantastic!”


“God, I love him.”


“Sounds like Gary Heffern! Just kidding.”

“Yeah, Dave, I’ll brilliiant you if ya don’t be quiet.”

“Hey Butt Hole, gonna have to give you a FAT LIP!!”

“Just because there’s 2 ‘T’s in ‘Butt’ doesn’t mean there are 2 in ‘fat.'”

“That first ‘T’ is the tail on my ‘y,’ thank you.”

“Yesterday is here. Tom Waits I want.”

“A great record. The surface noise on this is another case for CDs. Talk about a crammed disc, this clocks in at approx. 56 minutes.”

“As I listen to this I am hard pressed to think of a finer album this year. I repeat… brilliant!”

Clive Pig maybe? Mad Daddys (I’ll admit I’m partial) perhaps? Donny Mildew? Wire’s The Ideal Copy? How about that new one from the Chills? I don’t mean to play this LP down, but ‘hard pressed’? C’mon.”

“Yes, hard pressed. I don’t think any of those discs can touch this. Anyone else have any suggestions?”

Sister? Sign of the Times? Pleased to Meet Me? Babble? And let’s not forget The Lonesome Jubilee, certainly the most underrated album of the year, especially around here.” [To be fair, it seems 1987 was an incredible year in music. And no one even mentions Warehouse! Or Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me! Or INXS’s Kick, which I’ll admit was probably my favorite album of the year at the time.]

“If there are not other suggestions, I will say that this is 1987’s best.”

“Would’ve made a good opera.”

“I’ve always hated Waits.” [Ah, there we are! I knew we had to have at least one naysayer.]

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  1. Damon Creed
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ Tom pretty much gets a free pass. Are the archives at KEXP complete enough Levi that you can find KCMU’s Top 90.3 of 1987 and see where this album finally clocked in?

  2. Levi
    Posted July 22, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Good question, Damon. I have no idea, but will endeavor to find out.

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