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Baker's Dozen

A F**king Joy: Aidan Moffat's Favourite Albums
Daniel Dylan Wray , April 2nd, 2015 14:15

With Aidan Moffat's excellent new record with Bill Wells just out, we sent Daniel Dylan Wray up to Glasgow to meet the former Arab Strap man/Quietus sex columnist to discuss his top formative albums. And, with the help of beers, a record player and one powerful deployment of the phrase "get to utter fuck", here's what he picked


Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
Rain Dogs was the first record of his I ever heard. The [Jim Jarmusch] film Down By Law I watched on the television, about the end of '86 and I was about 13, I remember thinking I liked a lot of the music and I waited until the end of the film to watch the credits to see who the music was by. I came to Glasgow the week after and found a copy of Rain Dogs. First of all I was so surprised he was white! Because that voice! When I was watching the film I presumed it was some mad old blues record I'd never heard before. I took it home and I played it and like all my favourite records you enter this world and Rain Dogs is perfect for that, it starts literally with a song about getting on a ship and leaving the bay and it's just fucking fantastic. The great thing about Tom Waits is that there's so many things going on in this record, there's a country song, there's a lot of jazz, blues, but it never feels like it's forced, it always feels like it's him. We're listening to 'Downtown Train' right now, which is the pop hit of course, Rod Stewart covered it, but this song works so well because it comes as a surprise, it sounds like a really conventional song but you listen to it outside of the context of the album and it's not really conventional at all. I still listen to this album now and I make a point of doing so, setting aside time to be taken into this world. This is when albums were long; it's a long album you invest in, and it's the best example of an album being far more than a collection of songs. It's music being a form of cinema in a way; it has a purpose beyond entertaining you or making you dance, there's something going on there but with it being Tom Waits you're never quite sure what.

After Rain Dogs I worked back through his earlier records and they were everything I hated. His first album, Closing Time, I like but a lot of the stuff after that I can't stand. I don't think he figured out how to incorporate the showman side of him into the serious music side of him, he was so in love with himself as this beatnik character I think it became tiresome. Then you get to Swordfish Trombones and you have these expansive ideas and rather than play this role of who he is, he creates what he wants you to feel through sound. He realises that there's better ways to convey this persona he has other than act the cunt, because a lot of the earlier stuff I listen to and I just think it's artifice. What he grasps later on, and here with Rain Dogs, is that there's new ways to do it and I think it's fucking fantastic. A lot of his later records do it too, like Real Gone, nothing sounds like Real Gone. The boy's a genius and I don't say that lightly. Actually, I probably say that all the time.