Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Friday 2 September 2011

New Tom Album Coming!

I probably wouldn't be interested in making music if it weren't for Tom Waits. I got a copy of Bone Machine when I was a teenager, but I was too young and tender to get past an opening track like "Earth Died Screaming." I dug it out again when my tastes had matured into something weirder and darker, and I spent that summer studying his entire oeuvre, a time I still remember as a high water mark for focused listening. It seemed to me he had amalgamated all the things I liked - music, theatre, literature - into one convenient package.

It's been awhile since I listened to Tom Waits that intently, but it's been awhile since his last proper album. His latest, Bad as Me, is set to be released on October 25th. When that day comes, I will be ensconced in my armchair, the room hazy with too many candles, a snifter of something fine in my hand while I bliss out to the sound of my hero's return.

That's the plan, anyway. My expectations are high since the last album of new material, Real Gone, came out seven years ago and was as brilliant or better than anything else in his work. Apart from the amazing songs, I love the whole atmosphere of the album. The production sounds simultaneously trashy, rich, and deep, a feat that strikes me each time I hear it. Since then there's been a triple album of B-sides, Orphans, and a live album, Glitter and Doom.

Even though Glitter and Doom made me vow to see Waits live by hook or by crook next time he tours, it was the first album of his since Swordfishtrombones that didn't leave me stunned. To add to the suspense, the single track that has been released from the new album was a fairly generic sample of the Waits sound. Let us pray that we can blame digital audio for the failing, or that it makes sense in context or with repeated listens.

I'm hopeful for Bad as Me because Waits is the only one amongst his peers (he's been around since the seventies, and a genius since the eighties), whose music hasn't become sterile and irrelevant as he ages. I chalk that up to the diversity of his influences, since burning out or fading away is more of a rock and roll phenomenon. Attempting to imitate Waits can be extremely poisonous, so I push my music in its own direction. Still, Tom Waits is the cornerstone in my musical development, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with in October...

1 comment:

  1. I dug the single from the new reminded me a bit of Screamin' Jay Hawkins and I liked the overall vibe. Good example of those cut 'n' paste lyrics that Waits has for about half his song where the lines are individually really cool even if they don't completely make sense together.

    My first exposure to Tom Waits was on my way to my senior prom. I wasn't going to go despite having a free ticket, but my buddy and I were sitting around playing chess and got hungry. We figured there would be food at the prom, so we grabbed some suit jackets and ties and made the drive. On the way, I heard "The Piano Has Been Drinking" on a college radio station and fell in love. No idea who it was though and since this was before the Internet, I had no easy way to find out. At college the next year, my buddy Kent played me a track off of the Red, Hot, and Blue charity album (whatever that was called...Cole Porter covers) and I didn't even recognize it as the same guy but really loved the sound. Such a chaotic sound with a mesmerizing voice! About three weeks later, another college radio station played Bone Machine in its entirety and I borrowed a car to rush out and buy it (on cassette) that night. Hooked ever since. I think I bought everything Waits had made in about a month despite being as poor as dirt.

    I've only heard the last live thing once or seeing him live, but just hearing it didn't do much for me. His voice wasn't strong or varying on that one. I have mixed feelings about Real Gone...I love the experimentation and a lot of the songs. It's not one I grab as much as some of the others though. Still, less-than-stellar Waits is worlds better than nearly anything else out there. Can't wait for the new one!