Dave the Butcher is one of several instrumentals, this one with a warped fairground feel, while Just Another Sucker On The Vine's horns conjure up the last day of the carnival. Closing track Rainbirds uses a glass harmonica with piano and bass to perform one of the prettier pieces of music here.
Johnsburg, Illnois and In The Neighbourhood will be comfortable territory for anybody used to Waits' barfly ballads. 16 Shells From A 30.6 and Down, Down, Down are down and dirty growly blues. Town With No Cheer opens curiously, with bagpipes before Waits' paints a bleak picture. Swordfishtrombone itself is a kind of slinky blues, in the vein of Shore Leave. It wouldn't be a Tom Waits album without an emotional wallop, and he delivers here on Soldier's Things, a mainly piano-based lament of the returned hero selling off his mementos - "and everything's a dollar in this box".
Overall the effect is of an album musically all over the place, the disparate songs linked by a loose Vietnam war connection.