Last updated

Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 1, 1983
RecordedAugust 1982
Studio Sunset Sound, Hollywood, California
Genre Experimental rock [1]
Label Island
Producer Tom Waits
Tom Waits chronology
One from the Heart
Rain Dogs
Singles from Swordfishtrombones
  1. "In the Neighborhood"
    Released: October 1983

Swordfishtrombones is the eighth studio album by singer and songwriter Tom Waits, released in 1983 on Island Records. It was the first album that Waits produced himself. Stylistically different from his previous albums, Swordfishtrombones moves away from conventional piano-based songwriting towards unusual instrumentation and a somewhat more abstract and experimental rock approach. [2]


The album peaked at No. 164 on the Billboard Pop Albums and 200 albums charts.


The cover art is a TinTone photograph by Michael A. Russ [3] [4] showing Waits with the actors Angelo Rossitto and Lee Kolima. [5]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [2]
Blender Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [6]
Houston Chronicle Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [7]
Mojo Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [8]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [9]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [11]
Select 5/5 [12]
Uncut Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [13]
The Village Voice A− [14]

At the end of 1983, Swordfishtrombones was ranked the second best album of the year by NME . [15]

In 1989, Spin named Swordfishtrombones the second greatest album of all time. [16] In 2000, it was voted number 374 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums . [17]

Pitchfork ranked Swordfishtrombones at number 11 in its 2002 list of the best albums of the 1980s. [18] In 2006, Q listed Swordfishtrombones as the 36th best album of the 1980s, [19] while in 2012, Slant Magazine listed it as the decade's 26th best album. [20]

Track listing

All tracks written by Tom Waits. Arranger Frances Thumm. Recorded by Tim Boyle and Biff Dawes. Mixed by Dawes at Sunset Sound Studios, Hollywood, CA.

Side one

  1. "Underground" – 1:58
  2. "Shore Leave" – 4:12
  3. "Dave the Butcher" (instrumental) – 2:15
  4. "Johnsburg, Illinois" – 1:30
  5. "16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six" – 4:30
  6. "Town with No Cheer" – 4:22
  7. "In the Neighborhood" – 3:04

Side two

  1. "Just Another Sucker on the Vine" (instrumental) – 1:42
  2. "Frank's Wild Years" – 1:50
  3. "Swordfishtrombone" – 3:00
  4. "Down, Down, Down" – 2:10
  5. "Soldier's Things" – 3:15
  6. "Gin Soaked Boy" – 2:20
  7. "Trouble's Braids" – 1:18
  8. "Rainbirds" (instrumental) – 3:05



Chart (1983)Peak
Dutch Top 100 [21] 48
UK Albums Chart [22] 62
US Billboard 200 [23] 167
Chart (1984)Peak
New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart [24] 45
Norwegian Albums Chart [25] 18

Usage in media

The Song "Underground" was used for the Chop Shop theme in the movie Robots .

Mike, Tom, and Crow sing "Underground" Upon Wanda's arrival in Atlantis in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Alien from L.A. .

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