Oct 30, 2011

Tom Waits kissed me like a stranger again.

There are few things left in life to genuinely get excited over; the weekends, catching up with old friends, a few hours with no responsibilities, and a new Tom Waits album.  Tom Waits requires either no introduction, or a full story board to explain the most minute detail from this mans eccentric and excellent career.  Having refused to sell his heartfelt material for commercial use, only the die-hard fans of music will know who he is, with the unforgettable howl, courting the banshee drum beats with an eerie horn and string section that would invoke fear, if it weren't for the revealing lyrics that exposes the troubled characters only seeking love and acceptance.  The casual music fan who's musical taste simply floats with the next Doritos's commercial, will never receive the opportunity to experience the grandiose details planted into every strictly deliberate aesthetics injected within Tom Waits material.  And these honorable compliments remain valid, even without the consistent quality of in his new album, "Bad As Me."

Throughout his career, Waits has ranged from tearful ballads, to ship-sinking pirate dance melees, to rubber-burning road tripping odysseys.  However, typically, each previous album would be more potent with one specific style.  With this album, Waits presents a catalog of each style.  Ballad wise, Waits delivers with the usual and expected quality of lyrics that could only be challenged by the magnitude of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.  "Last Leaf" and "Kiss Me" are the most lyrically powerful ballads Waits has provided since "Alice," which are accompanied with the balladly great "Face to the Highway," which the title should allude to the self-explained sympathy, and "Back in the Crowd" (which may send mixed messages because of the playful ukulele).    However, as good as these heartfelt ballads are, Waits's music sings loudest and most memorable with the the back alley cat howls that run a muck through midnight dreams.  Waits's flagship has always been his raspy, mongrel, blue-colored, industrial, chronic-smoking voice, sacredly embedded with the bombastic, grab-you-by-the-throat percussion, which is evenly mixed in this album with the ballads.  "Chicago" opens like a mischievous traveler, looking for a little hot trot, "Hell Broke Luce" is simply frighteningly enjoyable (especially from the location of a pitch black room, belting through a stereo at its highest volume, as suggested by my good friend Bill), and my momentarily favorite, "Get Lost," which displays Waits existential side, pissing away worries of money and occupation, only hoping to hit the road with his baby.   Nothing relatively new or inventing on this album, but certainly reinventing, as "Hell Broke Luce" is a successful attempt for Waits to show his adoring fans that he's still got some ingenuity left in his 62 year old tank.

What does set this album apart are the short, sucker-punch songs, clocking in at no longer than 4 minutes a piece.  They definitely don't possess any familiar qualities of previous work, for his deep and allegorical monologues, typically plagued with characters of unfamiliar motives.  But, considering how almost unatainable it would be to even attempt to recreate the quality of albums like "Swordfish Trombones" and "Bone Machine," it makes sense that Waits doesn't even attempt to challenge his own prime.  This is an excellent album, wonderful to listen to, easy to enjoy, as Waits provides what we all expect, an artist that is truly devoted to his talent, delivering what he has come to expose himself as being.  It is clear that we are experiencing an aged Waits.  But by no means is this the same as an aged Dorito-pop star, as Tom Waits and his new and great material is easily one of the most enticing and exciting things that this world has to offer.  


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