Friday, May 13, 2011

90's Hit Parade #65

Tom Waits - Such a Scream/All Stripped Down

In 1992/93, Tom Waits finished up his stint at Island Records with a pair of albums that seemed to complete the musical journey he had been on for the length of his career, moving toward weirder and more dissonant sounds over the course of 20 years. The two albums are very different: 1993's The Black Rider, the soundtrack for an opera on which Waits had collaborated with Robert Williams and William S. Burroughs, brought Waits as far into his Bertolt Brecht-influenced cabaret sound as he would ever go, while indulging in all sorts of strange, dark sonic experiments. 1992's Bone Machine, by contrast, goes deep into blues and gospel sounds, even harking back to the earlier forms of work songs, field hollers and spirituals, all presented in a deeply noisy and harsh style that can only be called Waits-esque. Bone Machine is the sound of Tom Waits boiled down to a thick, intense reduction, a pure, the very essence of Waits.

My two favorite songs on Bone Machine are back to back, almost a medley, and I think of them as inseparable. "Such a Scream" is about as raucous as Tom ever got, all nasty blues and almost Pussy Galore-level noise. "All Stripped Down" has an odd lo-fi sound, and reminds me of some of the stranger tracks from Exile on Mainstreet (eg, "Just Wanna See His Face"). It sounds like something you'd hear at a storefront gospel church.


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