Tom Waits CD review [Anti]

Music Reviews
Tom Waits CD review [Anti]
Dec 15, 2006, 13:26

TOM WAITS Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards CD

While Waits is an accomplished Renaissance man, his output since hitting the Anti label has been a redundant waste of the Man's time. How many Raindog's outtakes do we need? Had he stopped after Franks Wild Years, his career as a garbage man crooner would have been untouched by years of parading uneventful and uninspired records like Alice or Real Gone. He is the father of Tin Pan Alley circa 21st Century and there are legions that follow this muttering, grown man.

I spent spring of 1985 in Tucson, Ariz., and did a radio shift at the local community radio station, KXCI. The program director, Paul Baer, was a Waits acolyte, and anyone who wanted to please him slapped on anything Waits, preferably anything from the 75-79 era. It was symbolic, to me, who was relatively new to Waits. The music was a cult to many, embraced by Beat-reading college kids and loved by old-schoolers like Baer.

I later saw the live act, in 1987 at the State Theater in Kalamazoo, Mich., and in 1999 at the Wiltern in LA. Good, but nothing like listening to “Heart Attack and Vine” on a cheap stereo at a bleary 3 a.m. winter night. That is this music's domain, after all. Four-o-clock alones.

Now Waits is an elder statesman, a modern day Will Rogers who scrapes on washboards and beats on bed springs while bellowing about…you know the routine. Bukowski affectations with bus station tremors.

This event, retail $42 at Virgin Megastore, offers three platters of toss-aways, some of which are gems, most of which are more clatter-call filler.

By far the Bastards disc is best, offering the ever great soliloquy, “The Pontiac,” in which Waits waxes a cappella on a host of sedans. It's wistful and beautiful, eliciting the poetry of Small Change. Most of the other offerings are stark, heavy or lonely (“Two Sisters,” “Dog Door”), interspersed with spastic, cluttering bits (“Army Ants,” “First Kiss”). You turn out the lights to play the Bastards disc, and hope tomorrow never comes. When it does, you want to go back and feel like you are indeed the only one on the world who understands Waits' earnest, noisy, honest heart. So you do it again. Waits is always going to be that, even when he offers sub par shit like most of the material on Orphans. Meantime, score the book Innocent When You Dream, a collection of interviews edited by Mac Montandon. And check this recent interview. Waits is an artist who never stops giving, even when he's bad. [Anti]


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