Sunday, 16 September 2007



With more measured crooning Tom Waits took on Saturday night through a drunken haze while still sounding relatively healthy while being some distance from the eventual gruff exterior that would inhabit him and his voice.  With this a kind of blissful exuberance takes over play as dimly lit occasions are turned into majestic moments of wonder in search of some clarity.  Regardless it’s romantic all the same.

Early Tom Waits feels very much about being the reflective songwriter.  With his vocal cords still intact his words and gestures contain something of an early grace as instead of the gruff monster sound we are acclimatised to these days, often he sounds like Randy Newman, Van Morrison and even at times Bruce Springsteen.

The album is about the hard living Waits will always be known for.  It is about hitting the town and hitting it hard, looking for life and then love all before last orders and closing time.  In execution he manages to turn what can often be grotty scenarios into true poetry.  His imagery is invigorating, passionate and full of love.  And this is prevailant as “New Coat Of Paint” presents a very exciting option and moment in time with its lush declaration.

The intention of these tracks is to tell the stories that he gathered while working in nightclubs, tales told in “smoky rooms under neon lights.”  With Bones Howe on production the sound is a hybrid of jazz, folk and the blues with the occasional orchestral arrangement thrown in for good measure and a big band sound.

On its cover is the painting of a regal Waits looking about to be propositioned by a lady.  With cigarette in his mouth and hand on the back of his head from within his cap there is an air poetic confidence and exuberance in posture that appears to emerge from a lack of concern.  Ladies and gentleman, this was a more handsome Bukowski.

Playing out of California you get a sense of his home turf and the acquaintance he makes.  There appears to be a lot of yearning and sly gestures on show thus there is some moral ambiguity in the lyrics exhibited as romance.  With his words he is painting the kind of experience the listener would like to have on a night out.

“Please Call Me, Baby” represents the record at its most desperate and romantic.  With its lush arrangements it feels like an oddly wholesome and well intentioned conversation cum plea.  Then arrives the imagery of being in transition that comes with “Depot, Depot”, a track that opens almost as if it were show tune.

There was a heavy literary influence bearing on Waits’ writing and this arrives in the form of the two spoken word tracks in “Diamonds On My Windshield” and “The Ghost Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone’s Pizza House)” that would not look out of place amongst the works of the Beat writers he appreciated.  The latter track also serves as a handy outro to this volume.

Like most warm records it makes me think of Christmas Eve and being out on an illuminated night surrounded by energy, enthusiasm and cheer.  It has that certain ability to transform and alter a person’s focus, to concentrate on the positive when faced with so much surface negative.  Maybe it was the beer goggles.

It was a long night.

Thesaurus moment:

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