After pefecting his seedy beatnik image on albums like SMALL CHANGE and NIGHTHAWKS AT THE DINER, Waits refined and expanded on it until the 1983 breakthrought of SWORDFISHTROMBONES. BLUE VALENTINE is full of low-rent nightlife imagery and arrangements that leave Waits' jazz leanings behind in favour of a more direct, blues-oriented approach. Lyrically, he's at his most straightforward and narrative, with tunes like "$29.00" and "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis" reading like dimestore detective novels. In a customary nod to tradition, he delivers a marvellously stentorian version of Bernstein's "Somewhere". Things close in a low-key fashion with the spare,heart-rending title song, a ballad of shattered love.