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Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (Island)

Mark Dery, Record, January 1986

THIS IS HOW the other half lives, the dark underbelly for whom being born in the U.S.A. means Huey Long, Lenny Bruce on a bender, and losing a week's pay in a two-minute game of three-card monte. Waits' Rain Dogs is American Gothic at its sordid best. It features Waits as the "demented drum major" of a Salvation Army band that features Keith Richards, John Lurie, the Uptown Horns and Robert Quine. Instead of sampled synthesizers, it's got Waits whacking a chest of drawers with a two-by-four. But most of all, it's got all the "small-time Napoleons," "shadow boys," and "gun street girls" who didn't make it onto the star-spangled bandwagon, but wound up on this disk instead. Which isn't such a bad place to end up.

Total word count of piece: 127

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