Everyone knows Tom Waits is one of those totally essential artists. You know, the ones your older brother or your first serious boyfriend/girlfriend constantly sung the praises of, reminding you that you *have to* listen. Often these artists slip by without due attention in a mixture of defiance and incredulity – how could anything be truly essential? This is a case of those people being right. And only those who have delved into his somewhat vast discography know why. Here’s exhibit A in the argument as to what the big deal is.
This album has been oft-described as sounding as if it were recorded in a cave – a distinct feeling evoked by the creaking, shambling, darker-than-ink atmosphere of which both the primal songwriting and spare production share credit. That statement may give the impression of some Albini-tinged grindingly rough sound, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite its medieval surgical title and tough-as-nails demeanor, Bone Machine has a tender, wounded heart at its center. The defiant, rabble-rousing spirit which marshals this ramshackle train of songs may be the only true constant, but what a binding glue it is: no matter the dour subject matter (environmental destruction, murder, etc) this measure of well-earned cocksure aggression ensures a fun, heady time.
If you’ve ever been put off by Wait’s vaudeville tendencies in the past, simply do your best at an attempt to keep those prejudices at bay and allow yourself to take in this dirty, clanging masterpiece of a primal rock juggernaut. This woozy, dark-humored beast will jab your soul through the ribs. You won’t be able to shake it after a full listen. So please, just take a taste of that feel.