Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Tune Tuesday 10.25.11 - Tom Waits (as if you need anybody else)

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. New Tune Tuesday 10.25.11

Well, friends, this is the type of week NTT looks out for, when an artist like Tom Waits releases something new. I admit I came a bit late to the Waits party, as the fact he always sold so well in the college circles made me think he might be a bit too molded for the college hipster crowd. I finally gave in a few years back and the first time I listened to Tom Waits was like learning to breathe oxygen all over again, it was so new, fresh and exciting. Even my section of this site is named after a quote of his. The new record? Well, we'll get to it, first up a very brief visit to the News Blender...

New Disc of Old Ideas for Cohen:
I'm happy to hear that FINALLY poet-singer-author Leonard Cohen will be releasing a new LP, Old Ideas, in January after working on it for the past few years (he talked about producing it himself in a brief Rolling Stone interview in 2010) in between his rather large world tour, which was his first time on the road in 15 years when it began in 2008. A few newer tunes of Cohen's made there way to the stage on that '08-10 tour, but from what I understand, the only one played live that will make the disc is "Darkness," which is a bit surprising and intriguing. If he has better songs than "Lullaby" and "Born in Chains" to throw on the disc, I'm excited. His last LP was 2004's Dear Heather, which while good, wasn't quite up to par with 2001's Ten New Songs.

Also, Cohen has not ruled out doing another tour, in fact saying he'd like to do one, "God willing," and if he does, don't miss it. The epic three set, 3-hour show I saw in 2009 is one of the few 5-star shows I've ever seen.

RELEASE OF THE WEEK (10.25.11): Bad as Me, Tom Waits
The seeds are planted here,
But they won't grow,
We won't have to say goodbye,
If we all go,
Maybe things will be better in Chicago,
To leave all we've ever known,
For a place we've never seen,
Maybe things will be better in Chicago...

The sound of someone saying it was a good home they left turns into the sounds of an army's "left, right, left" as machine guns fire and a bomb kills his friend who he weeps for as hell breaks loose (luce). Another man claims he'll finally be satisfied when he's dead and gone, and hopes his skulls and bones will bleach nicely and make a nice home for mice. The dying quiver of sorts of a voice comes on proclaiming itself to be the almost ageless last leaf on a tree as autumn comes, so does another voice, the even more ragged (if that's possible) Keith Richards joins in with him. Another man is paid to get lost and not come home, where-as someone else altogether leaves his family and life behind, heading out with nothing but a couple hundred bucks, his collection of records, and a friend named Charles as they plan to never come back, it's new years eve as they sing about auld acquaintances being forgot. You're either making your way across every dive bar and alleyway in the country listening to every broken down man tell the story of where his life went wrong. That, or you're listening to the newest offering from Tom Waits: Bad as Me.

I had a good home but I left,
I had a good home but I left, right, left,
That big f**king bomb made me deaf, deaf,
A humvee mechanic put his kevlar on wrong,
I guarantee you'll meet up with a suicide bomb,
Hell broke luce, hell broke luce,
Big f**king ditches in the middle of the road,
You pay a hundred dollars just for fillin' in the hole...
...Now I'm home and I'm blind,
and I'm broke, what is next?
~Hell Broke Luce~

Tom Waits is an American music treasure, one of the truest forms of originality in it and one of the finest examples of music recording as an art form at it's creative best. Waits uses whatever means necessary to make his music work, whether it's an actual instrument, adding the sound of crackling vinyl behind the song or the banging of a stick against a pipe or maybe Waits' voice shouting through a megaphone. Whatever works to get Waits that "adventure numbers and halloween music from Torrance" sound he so craves. Last time through - well, not counting the massive 3-disc bootleg series-esque treasure trove Orphans, which came out in 2008 collecting various outtakes, b-sides and non-album tracks - Waits gave us Real Gone, back in '04, which showed him mixing his own unique musical style with some bass and rhythm more akin to a hip hop album, which, unsurprisingly, Waits was listening to his sons hip hop collection at the time. The album was solid, but had it's mixtures of highs and lows. Not so much here, Waits, alongside usual cronies like Keith Richards (who plays on a few tracks including "Satisfied," which name checks Richards and Mick Jagger in more than just song title), Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo (not to mention Waits' son Casey on drums and percussion) goes through his most concise album of music since 1999's Mule Variations.

I was leaving in the morning with Charles for Las Vegas,
and I didn't ever plan to come back.
I had only a few things, two hundred dollars,
and my records in a brown paper sack.
I ran out on Sheila and everything's in storage,
Calvin's right I should go back to driving trucks...
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind,
for the sake of auld lang syne
~New Years Eve~

The album opens guns blazing with an eclectic mix of a rhythm section varying from guitars and banjos to a bit of harmonica and horns. The song is "Chicago," and it's about a familiar theme for a Waits song: a hard-luck case and a second...or third...for seventy-fifth chance. Thing is, in today's world, these hard-luck cases seem a little easier to come by on the street. Beyond it we find love and lust ("kiss me like a stranger once again") and money and war and struggles we all wish didn't exist. This is nothing new for Waits to tackle, who, somehow after putting down the bottle and his booze-hound jazz-lounge piano player character (more than just a little art imitating life or life imitating art for him at the time) in the early 80's and quit vying for commercial success and just, well, did whatever he wanted, found himself making the best music of his career since. This album instead of showing a new side or character of Waits, seems to create a mix and match of the ones he's used over the last 25 years and packs them into one album...and it works. Like so often before, the two unsung (pun to be intended) heroes of this album are Waits voice and his wife, Kathleen Brennan. Waits' voice is a star because it's the instrument everyone wishes their voice can be, because it has so many characters hidden in there. Ragged bluesman, high falsetto, weary soul, phlegm-filled soldier of the apocalypse. His wife? Well, as a co-writer and co-producer on just about everything he's done since 1985, she's the unsung hero for a man who calls "songwriting easy," well, maybe it is. Or maybe he just has a good woman behind him. He also has the gift of, much like Dylan, taking the right line or song title or quote from years old and turning it into something new. Waits has done it before with "Waltzing Matilda" and Leadbelly's "my father always told me to not go down to Fannun Street" quote from his in between song interview on his last sessions. Here, Waits finds the best and most melancholy way to sneak in a bit of "should auld acquaintances be forgot..." (as well as it's melody) in the heartbreaking closer "New Years Eve."

You're the same kind of bad as me,
"No Good," you say?
Well, that's good enough for me...
~Bad as Me~

Final Thoughts: In the end, the ballads are as beautiful as anything found on disc 2 ("Bawlers") of Orphans, the blues tracks would make Leadbelly or Howlin' Wolf jealous and "Hell Broke Luce" may in fact be the most, how should we put it, bad a** song ever created, at least in recent memory. Bad as Me is Tom Waits best since Mule Variations, and thus far, the RECORD OF THE YEAR.
4.5 Rooney's/5

Available on: CD, Deluxe 2-CD set with deluxe book and 3 bonus tracks, Vinyl (including CD copy of album) with deluxe lyric booklet and mp3.

Other Notable Releases (10.25.11)
'Stronger,' Kelly Clarkson
I remember in 2006 reading an interview with Simon Cowell where he heavily praised Kelly Clarkson and said he'd rather have 10 of her than 1 Bob Dylan because "singing poets bore me to tears" and she sells so well. Within weeks of that statement Kelly Clarkson released a new album that crashed and burned and then crashed some more (My December) and Bob Dylan released one of the (almost overly) praised albums of the decade and became the oldest living man to release a #1 record, Modern Times. Point is, I subscribe to the opposite theory of Mr. Cowell. I like music that has SOMETHING to SAY, not SELL. Clarkson was manufactured in a glorified accountants glorified board room and has nothing to say. I'm not saying her first few singles weren't catchy or that she didn't do well by at least TRYING to write her own songs, I'm just saying that she's a manufactured phony of a "musician" created to sell the lowest form of pop music. Her new record? Well, her fans will love it, in all it's highly formulaic ways, and it might find some radio play, but not like her stuff from the mid-2000's I'm afraid to say.
Available on: CD, Deluxe CD, MP3
'A Very She & Him Christmas,' She & Him
Whimsy and TRYING to sound old, I hate it. Zooey DOUCHEenel is a fake who can't act beyond one role (manic pixie dream girl) and who's annoying voice translates into an annoying old sounding voice that only has one range. I wish my Daddy was a famous cinematographer so I could do whatever I wanted to. The LP's back cover even makes me want to punch M Ward, and I actually dig that guy and his music. I liked She & Him Volume one for a brief amount of time, by the way.
Available on: CD, Vinyl, Mp3
'In the Key of Disney,' Brian Wilson
I mentioned Tom Waits as an American treasure of music earlier, here's another guy, a true musical genius, who also deserves that accolade. Brian Wilson we are lucky to have you still making music my friend. I have a record store friend who met him backstage once, and with chance to say anything he wanted to a hero, all he could muster was "I just wanna thank you for still going out there even when you don't have to." With all that he's gone through personally and professionally, I just can't help but SMILE (pun intended for those in the know) that here we have another release, one that finds the former Beach Boys leader tackling various tunes from Disney films. Fans of either Wilson/Beach Boys and Disney films will love this.
Available on: CD, Amazon exclusive version
'The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition,' various artists
Very cool to have this 2-CD set that features everyone from Bruce Springsteen and REM to Sonic Youth to Neil Young to Fleet Foxes and No Doubt to Sheryl Crow and Brian Wilson, all doing live versions of songs for a purpose. Even better is the DVD set that features some great performances by some of these and even more, including Bob Dylan.
Available On: 2-CD Set, DVD Set, Vinyl
'Smokestack Lightning: Complete Chess Masters,' Howlin' Wolf - box set
Have $60 or $70 lying around and want to have a fantastic box set that includes some of the greatest blues music created between 1951 and 1960? Well, this 97 song 4-disc set chronicling the Wolf's Chess Records years is for you. If you don't have at least ONE Howlin' Wolf recording lying around your house, don't every come to me saying how great your music tastes are.
Available on: 4-CD box set, 97 songs MP3
'Mylo Xyloto,' Coldplay
Coldplay. A wannabe U2 who's been accused of ripping off somebody else's songs more times than Lady Gaga's been accused of ripping off Madonna. This new record finds them somehow in the synth-pop/rock revival of 2005 suddenly with plenty of weak, repetitive lyrics to go along with the trashcan full of synth. You could at least say Viva showed them exploring out past their norm, this just finds them being boring and out of a want or need to grow past that I guess. Trash of the Week (it wouldn't be if I reviewed Jo Jonas' new album, but I didn't, did I?
Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3

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