Nov 08, 2022
By Matthew Berlyant
Following on the 2017 reissue, which marked this 2002 album’s 15th anniversary, this 20th anniversary edition (which is paired with a reissue of that year’s Alice as well) on “bloody mary” red vinyl finds Tom Waits delivering one of his darkest, most harrowing, and most uncompromising works. And in a career full of dark, uncompromising work (especially since he flipped the script on 1983’s Swordfishtrombones, continuing in a similar vein since then), that is really saying something.
With song titles such as “Misery is the River of the World,” “Everything Goes to Hell,” and “God’s Away on Business,” you pretty much know what you’re going to get and that’s just on side one. On side two, “Starving in the Belly of a Whale” and the straight-to-the-point “Woe” don’t exactly lighten the mood, either, but at least there are some moments of slight relief here.
“Coney Island Baby” (not the Lou Reed song) shows off Waits’ formidable skills as a ballad writer, something which he’s always excelled at since his earliest albums, and if one is familiar with “God’s Away on Business” being mashed up with clips of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street (if not, look it up), one can also find levity on this, a very heavy album lyrically. (www.tomwaits.com)
Author rating: 8.5/10
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