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Baker's Dozen

True Pairings: Tom Fleming's 13 Favourite Albums
Ben Hewitt , September 25th, 2019 12:16

Former Wild Beast Tom Fleming, who's just released his excellent debut album as One True Pairing, picks the 13 records that shaped him, from Tool and Def Leppard to Scott Walker and Joanna Newsom


Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

I still have no truck with Tom Waits’ crooner period: I find it put-on and it rings false to me. But still to this day, I haven’t heard anything like this record – and all of those kind of old blues moves are still there but now refracted, with the weird New Orleans band stuff. It’s also got ‘Underground’ on it, and I still probably try and write [like that] today. I didn’t realise when I first heard it that it was such a giant leap forward for him, because it was the first record of his that I knew, and afterwards I went forward to Rain Dogs and Mule Variations and then back to Blue Valentine and all that stuff. But this is the one that caught him at an interesting crossroads. All the double-bass stuff is unbelievable, and ‘Shore Leave’ might be my favourite guitar performance ever, it’s so horrible and great.

His vocals are incredible and the lyrics are amazing; obviously they’re inspired by the blues but it’s refracted here, and whereas I found it annoying in the earlier records it feels like it’s in service of everything else on this album, and they’re more like fascinating stories than some kind of Norman Rockwell jacket he puts on. It’s a record I liked a lot when I was 17 and 18, and now I know I more about how records are made, I just think, ‘Bloody hell.’ I’ve always thought that records are a series of decisions, and when you hear this you just think, ‘Why? Why is it like that? Why on Earth is he talking about men underground? What is this glass harmonica thing?’ It just makes no sense, and it’s great for that. It’s the sound of him doing what he wanted, when he wanted – or at least, that’s how it seems to me.