Friday, June 1, 2012

Song #208 of 9999 - Shore Leave by Tom Waits

Song #208 of 9999 

Title: Shore Leave
Artist: Tom Waits
Year: 1983 
Album: Swordfishtrombones

Tom Waits's breakout album Swordfishtrombones came out in 1983, but it could just as well have come out at any time in the past or the future. If you've never heard it, the thirty years that have elapsed since its release will have little to no impact on the way you perceive it. Waits himself is now sixty-two years old, but he could have been sixty-two when he recorded the record and he may be forty-two next year. What I'm trying to say is he is a rare timeless artist and so is his art.

It was hard to decide which track to choose to feature tonight—they all tell such vivid tales, even the instrumentals. I like "Shore Leave" because of the arrangement and the lyrics, but it's also a prototypical Waits track with its moto perpetuo bass line outlining a twelve-bar blues while exotic instruments frame Waits's storytelling. Every line of the lyric offers a detail so real, you feel like you're right there with this forlorn soldier. To me, the song captures the irony of being in a crowded, busy place with so much to do and still feeling lonely because you're missing the one you love. I love the couplet "Well I was pacing myself trying to make it all last/Squeezing all the life out of a lousy two day pass" because it relates how much the protagonist could long for a few days leave, even if only to spend it feeling home- and love-sick. Great track from a great album.

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