Tom Waits' Orphans debuted recently, and I, being the obsessive Tom Waits fan that I am (a promo poster for “Downtown Train” hangs over my bed, and I went through a phase where I was dressing like said idol, which, on a girl, is not especially sexy) was frothing to own it. But, like a character on The Heart of Saturday Night, there’s nothing in my pockets except for small change. Forty-nine bucks is a little out of my price range, Tom.
So, hands shoved deep in the empty pockets of my trousers, I moped my way down to Oneonta’s Hipster Paradise, Maxwell’s, hoping to at least catch a listen of Waits’ musical miscreants. Sure enough, the Guy Behind the Counter (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Rick Ocasek, if Rick decided to stop showering for a week or so) had Orphans blaring from the scratchy speakers.
I asked him which one of the three discs (Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards) we were listening to. We were listening to Brawlers. Good stuff. Generally I tend to stay towards the earlier end of the Tom Waits spectrum (The Heart of Saturday Night gets my pick as the second greatest album ever, lagging only behind The Who’s immortal Tommy) and end my listening around the Swordfishtrombones era. I like Alice (which, although released in 2000, is very obviously from earlier recordings) and own Blood Money. Mule Variations is a good borrow-listen-return, but Real Gone was just too hipster-friendly—that is, clanging banging nonsense that every wank-job reading this is shaking his flippy-haired head and saying, “She doesn’t know anything about Tom Waits.” I understand what he’s trying to do in later albums and it’s freakin’ awesome how he’s stretching the bounds of what we consider music, but it’s just not appealing to me—I feel like Real Gone lacks any sort of truth to it, like it’s just a manic man’s ramblings, and simply being crazy as hell doesn’t make a genius of a man. “Dead and Lovely” is a unique track in the same vein as Alice, but “Day After Tomorrow” while a sweet sentiment, sounds like something John Mayer might write on a good day.