Saturday, April 30, 2005

Anyone else find this oddly resonant and familiar?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Here is the April column.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Influential Albums from My Misspent Youth
2. Tom Waits, Bone Machine (1992)

This was the first Tom Waits album I ever had; I borrowed it from my uncle not too long after its release. And I’m not sure why. I know two things. I had previously heard Waits’ soundtrack to the film One From the Heart, a collection of duets with Crystal Gayle, via this same uncle. And I know I had read a rave review of the album in Musician magazine.

I subscribed to Musician from 1991 till the end of its days in, I believe, 1998. It was a profound factor in my decision to be a music writer, not because they wrote about new distortion pedals or MIDI technology (and boy, did they ever!) but because they also got songwriters, players, singers, producers etc. to really open up about the creative process. Oftentimes I feel I should have stopped writing about music when the damn thing up and died.

Anyway. The dirtiness of this record -- the raw production and unknowable instrumentation -- appealed to me like nothing had before. I wonder if anyone else was prepared for discovering punk and indie-rock with this album or another of Waits’. I also loved Bone Machine’s weirdness -- for some reason I cherish the memory of trying to describe the track “The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me Today” to a friend on the car-pool ride home from marching band practice.

I was already a little familiar with Waits, so the funny voice was no longer a novelty, although it did serve as a hook, something different to get me to listen more than once. And there was humor here, especially “Goin’ Out West,” which delighted me then and still does, with lines like “I’m gonna change my name to Hannibal/Or maybe just Rex.”

I held on to my uncle’s copy as long as I could. When he asked for it back, I think I managed to get the album onto a blank tape. After Bone Machine, I put on as many songs as I could fit from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge by Van Halen. Kinda wish I still had that tape.

Overall, I think I was definitely drawn to the unhinged spookiness of songs like “Earth Died Screaming” and “All Stripped Down,” perhaps for teen-angst reasons. And, to reiterate, I think I also developed an attachment to the elements of Bone Machine’s sound that appeared unvarnished or natural, as if Waits had just pulled the songs out from the ground, not even bothering to pat the dirt off.

Another fun memory: Tom Waits plugging the album on The Arsenio Hall Show. The host attempts to engage Waits on a number of subjects, including the sound of the album, working with Keith Richards, and Waits’ role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Waits is seemingly off-kilter and mumbly and everyone eats it up.

Listening to Bone Machine now, it doesn’t sound quite as unpredictable. I enjoy my share of Tom Waits music, though his affectations are much more apparent to me now. (I am of the opinion that his work in the ‘70s, though sometimes lovely, suffers the most, with all the relentlessly soused piano ballads.) As strange as it may sound, I wonder if the Maxell Conundrum has had its way with my memories of this album, if I actually remember it being even more unvarnished. (I am aware, by the way, that the Conundrum, described in the previous entry in this series, is a sort of bargain-basement McLuhan.)

But there’s a lot I still enjoy: the funeral march “Dirt in the Ground”; the very strange manifestation of Waits’ Brecht-Weill influence, “In the Colosseum” (that’s how it’s spelled on the CD); and this great line from the Richards collaboration “That Feel”: “Well, you say that it’s gospel/But I know that it’s only church.”

Next in this series: Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine (Wow! What synergy!)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Friday, April 01, 2005

This is a very minor, yet noteworthy, late night/early morning. For the first time since the reunion hype became annoying and endless, I am able to listen to The Pixies. I think I just wanted to hear, "Rock me, Joseph Alberto Santiago."