Tom Waits – Bone Machine
By Marshall Thorne Tuesday, 30 Jan 2007

“Warning: The stark, ugly, profound truths Bone Machine exposes may be soul crushing to the weak of spirit.”

This was taken from the warning for a TV show, but it might as well be the fine print on the cover of Bone Machine. If you are trying to avoid sugarcoated lyrics and masturbatory music, you just may have found the right place!

One thing Tom really shows here is his mastery for creating unique textures and arrangements. He isn’t afraid to take an extended vacation into left field and turn ordinary objects into a rhythm section…an outdoor recording of sticks beating on asphalt drives the very first track!

These textures and peculiar arrangements are not used just for the sake of being odd, but purposefully in relation to the lyrics. Many songs are honest depictions of the chaotic state of nature, human fragility, and the ignoble savagery that drives people more than they’d like to admit. Relatively uncommon things like sparse large drums or distorted shakers are used to create primitively hypnotizing backdrops for songs like this.

The musical selection is fairly eclectic, however. There are blues songs, semi-love songs, backwoods country songs, and more. Much of the album remains outright scary but not all of it… and like a Bob Dylan album, the music might not work without some amazing lyrics. They are the cornerstone of this album, and Waits still has room to supply a unique feel and keen musicianship (in his 40′s!) to round out a classic album. He is insane!

Some obligatory facts in conclusion:

  • “Goin’ Out West” was the raunchy song playing when Ed Norton and Brad Pitt walked through a bar, heading downstairs for a meeting in “Fight Club”.
  • The Ramones covered “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”.
  • Keith Richards co-wrote and performs on “That Feel”… here’s Tom for you:

(Interviewer) – How did Keith Richards come to be on the album?

T.W. – We’re relatives, I didn’t realize it. We met in a women’s lingerie shop, we were buying brassieres for our wives. They had a little place at the back there where you could have a drink, two cups at a time.

No, he’s been borrowing money from me for so long that I had to put a stop to it. He’s a gentleman, he came into the studio and took his hat off and all these birds flew out.