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Tom Waits perfects sound on ‘Bone Machine’

By Hayden Corwin ’15

Tom Waits – “Bone Machine”

9.5 out of 10

When Tom Waits screams, the room quiets down.

His voice growls to the fringe of control, but he somehow pulls it back and stays in pitch.

The guitars become a perfectly muffled mess. The percussion instruments accent the overall melody as well as Waits’ raw vocals in “Bone Machine,” his 14th studio album.

“Bone Machine” was released in 1992. It documents Waits’ struggles with growing old and fearing the loss of his youthful qualities. It is an appropriate topic, seeing as even in the ’90s he had already been involved in the music industry for about 25 years.

The album really takes the listener places as it is experienced. Tracks like “In the Colosseum,” “The Ocean Didn’t Want Me Today” and “That Feel” possess an ambience that makes the listener. “In the Colosseum” sets up an eerie Roman coliseum that is empty and makes many hasn’t been in use for years.

“The Ocean Didn’t Want Me Today” gives the feeling of being on the shore at the turn of the century looking out into a gray sea with a looming sky above it. Conversely, “That Feel” shifts the setting to a small blues club with a soulful man on a giant black piano and no microphone, singing the story of never losing passion.

Other tracks on this album like “Goin’ out West” and “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” are truly great songs. “Goin’ out West” is the perfect example of male testosterone with lyrics like: “I’ve got hair on my chest/ I look good without a shirt on,” and “I know karate/ Voodoo too.”

On the other hand “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” perfectly describes what this album is about: getting older and accepting new responsibilities when a certain age is reached. Waits sings:

“Well when I see my parents fight

I don’t wanna grow up

They all go out and drinking all night

And I don’t wanna grow up

I’d rather stay here in my room

Nothin’ out there but sad and gloom

I don’t wanna live in a big old Tomb on Grand Street”

It’s easy to see why this song is on this album; it fits in perfectly with his overall themes.

Overall, this album is for people who have a flare for the unusual. Waits’ sound is very different from any other musician out there today. Along with a different sound, “Bone Machine” has fantastic instrumentals to complement his fiery vocals.

Even in the early ’90s Waits was well into his career, but with the release of “Bone Machine,” it seems he finally mastered his sound.


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