Tom Waits, Real Gone

Sam Adams

By Sam Adams

on 10.24.11 in Reviews

Real Gone

Tom Waits
Forcing Waits to find his footing again

Opening with the swish of turntables worked by his son Casey, Tom Waits’s 17th album wastes no time throwing down the gauntlet. If The Mule Variations leaned on past advances, Real Gone kicks away the crutches, forcing Waits to find his footing again. There’s not a note of keyboard on the entire album, and though there’s no disguising his voice, Waits buries it in distortion and puts it low in the mix, forcing it to fight its way to the top. “Shake It” distills the distorted stomp of Bone Machine to its infernal essence, while “Metropolitan Glide” fulfills Waits’s desire to create a “dance craze,” albeit one that by the sound of it can only be engaged in by skeletons. “Circus” is just warped music box and record-player static, an end-times take on one of Waits’s pet subjects. The 10-minute “Sins of the Father” is the boldest step, a slowly building narrative built on a minimalist riff, less “Burma Shave” than it is “Desolation Row.” Even after so many years, the old conjurer still has a few tricks left.