Tom Waits is on those short lists of human beings that comes up every time there's a freshman philosophy class that starts dealing with the ontological arguments for God's existence. Considering how terrible most of the ontological arguments are, by the time most God-fearing men and women get to the 2 hour mark of discussing how the big G exists solely because the perfect description of the perfect being requires it's perfect existence, as necessitated by the descriptive term "perfect," it's not the faults of their pun-loving philosophy professor that they stumble drunkenly from class, to pub, to dorm room realizing that there mama was a liar, and there Sunday School teacher an over-bearing pederast. Luckily for those who came of age post 83, all that was needed in their ears to caress the bottle of brandy in their grubby paws was a little "Sixteen Shells from a Thirty-Ought-Six," otherwise known as one of the 15 greatest songs of all time by one of the greatest singer-songwriters to walk the Earth--oh ye of little faith and massive torment that did live on the cursed ground before 1949 (the year of the saviors birth)--where is your 20 hour Burns mini-series, titled The Darkest Blackness: Life Before Tom Waits? As it were, Waits was already a true American hero, born out of a junkyard monkey grinder, but until September of '83, he hadn't dropped the album that let everybody know what his DNA sounded like. Until then, he was a singer-songwriter how dropped massively entertaining mixes of blues/vocal styling that wouldn't have been out of place on any intelligent national public radio program. With Swordfishtrombones, he moved further into the freakier aspects of his personality while utilizing pianos and strings, instruments not exactly known for their hipster-freaky-deaky credentials, and succeeded in alienating any listener who was, because they were drunk, hoping he might sing more love ballads like Closing Time's "Martha." His catalog leading to Swordfish wasn't shabby, not in the least, but from here everything was pure gold: even at it's most off-putting, the man went on to embody that which terrifies 99% of music--Tom Waits is an artist, and his canvas is albums that stand in stark contrast with everything that surrounds him. Bluntly: he's one of the names you come up with when you realized Descartes was a drunken fool--Tom Waits will make you buy into the Lord.
-Tucker Stone, 2007