Friday, October 4, 2013

Tom Waits 19: Blood Money

While it hadn’t been waiting as long as Alice, Blood Money came from the same general source: a pre-industrial tale dramatized by Robert Wilson with songs by Tom Waits, with yet another complicated plot. At first it seems like a more challenging listen than its counterpart, but that’s not to elevate Alice any higher than it deserves.
“Misery’s The River Of The World” sports a lovely chromatic descent and return to accompany his Beefheart bark, and “Everything Goes To Hell” is just as bleak a message. “Coney Island Baby” brings a piano ballad just in time; not the Lou Reed song, but still has some allusions to “Innocent When You Dream” at the end. The marimbas and clarinets return for “All The World Is Green”, but then we go back to the demented circus for “God’s Away On Business”. “Another Man’s Vine” should appeal to fans of Bone Machine, reminiscent as it is of “Dirt In The Ground”. But the true antecedent here is The Black Rider, as demonstrated by the instrumental “Knife Chase”.
A very tender “Lullaby” provides a nice break, again, but then it’s back to nightmare territory with “Starving In The Belly Of A Whale”. “The Part You Throw Away” has the potential to be something profound, but the understated delivery and Night On Earth arrangement make it seem more of a passing phase. “Woe” is a brief, bronchial song of devotion swallowed up by the more dissonant “Calliope”, which brings to mind some of the interludes from the earlier Island years. An old 78 winds up for “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, which plays over the credits of the imaginary movie.
Just like Alice, there are a lot of interesting textures on Blood Money, but it’s unlikely that Waits would be comfortable with this becoming background music, in the way that another artist famous for his textures (i.e. Brian Eno) would be. The music is striking, for certain, but without an outside producer to edit him (and the writing co-credited to his wife) one wonders what could have been whittled down to something simple and thus even more striking.

Tom Waits Blood Money (2002)—2

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