Though Tom Waits had spent most of the 70s establishing himself as one of America's most distinctive singer-songwriters, "Swordfishtrombones" found him reinventing himself and creating one of the most original sounds in popular music. Leaving behind his Kerouac-influenced lyrics and lounge-lizard piano-bar stylings for an unprecedented eclecticism that merged Brecht-Weill artsong, Captain Beefheart-style avant blues, Harry Partch-inspired junkyard percussion, along with a healthy dose of everything else but the kitchen sink. All this sonic exoticism would be for naught where it not accompanied by equally striking, arch songwriting. "Swordfishtrombones" moves from the Ken Nordine-style recitative of "Frank's Wild Years" and the demented Delta blues of "Gin Soaked Boy" to the marimba-laced shaggy-dog tale "Shore Leave" and the crazed, Loony Tunes instrumental "Dave the Butcher". The blazed a trail that Waits (and countless imitators) would follow fruitfully for years to come, and remains one of the most impressive recordings not just of Waits's career, but of anyone's.