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Bone Machine
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Product Description

This is Waits's most harrowing album ever, thanks not only to such heartwarming sentiments as "What does it matter, a dream of love or a dream of lies / We're all going to be in the same place when we die" but also to the ravaged, shamanistic croak with which he delivers them. Death hangs like a bad suit on songs like "Jesus Gonna Be Here," "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me," and "Murder in the Red Barn." But the album is musically entrancing and richly poetic--"Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?" Waits asks a perennially unfaithful lover in "Who Are You." There's also room for some foolishness, as with "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," which has been memorably covered by the Ramones, and a boozy sing-along (with Keith Richards), "That Feel." --Daniel Durchholz

The abnormal has become the norm for Tom Waits, so, once again, Bone Machine is laden with odd timbres, archaic acoustics, and raw vocals. This time, however, Waits has built his songs around a Harry Partch-inspired fascination with primitive percussion. With a crew of Northern California musicians along to add spare adornments, Waits fashions pretty, sentimental tunes ("A Little Rain," Whistle Down the Wind") and hellish stampedes of clanging metal and hoarse shouting ("Earth Died Screaming," "Let Me Get Up on It," the latter the 53-second distillation of Bone Machine quintessence-just Waits distorted bellowing and banging. Bone Machine is both appalling and appealing. There are elements to this album that seem designed to drive away the faint of heart, and then there are melodies that melt in your hand. --Steve Stolder

Customer Reviews:

  • A little rain....
    This album surprised me more than any previous Tom Waits album that I have purchased. I have heard nothing but good things about it, even hailed as his best. That plus the Grammy he got for it made me think that it would be a very easily accessible album (like Mule Variations), but that is just not the case. This is some of the roughest sounding music he has ever made. The album is almost entirely his growling, and the music is almost all distorted guitar. It was no surprise to see that Les Claypool played on this album, because I got a Primus feel out of it.
    This is a very good album by a very good artist, but this is probably not the best album to start on, like I said, pick a much more accessible album (like Mule Variations or Rain Dogs) if you are new to Waits....more info
  • Sublime
    This is the album that made me a devout fan. You may have to listen to it twice to feel it, but i guarantee it's worth it. Music will never be the same after this....more info
  • a haunting classic
    Tom Waits dug deep to find this one - and he dug all over the place. Visceral, vivid and jarring, 'Bone Machine' is a boisterous celebration of all things nocturnal. Unfolding like a bad dream, the album careens from track to track as Waits assumes roles varied roles: narrator, spectator, prophet, grim reaper. In "black wings," a sinister cowboy ballad, Waits is a wizened storyteller; in "in the colloseum," an ugly ode to carnage, he's an unabashed participant.

    There are moments of warmth in 'Bone Machine;' most notable is "who are you," a deeply romantic song of painful love - "are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?" Waits asks, mixing wit and hurt. On other tracks, Waits' juxtapositions are less expected and even more unsettling. The album's opening track, "earth died screaming," combines bare, almost tribal preccusion with a harsh interpretation of R&B; the result is dark, grating and very effective.

    'Bone Machine' is bewitching. Listen to it at night....more info

  • We're all gonna be just dirt in the ground.
    When Waits began recording for Bone Machine, he said this of the studio he was working in: "I was so disturbed; the studio we got was totally wrong. I was stomping around thinking, nothing will ever grow in this room. I'm more and more inclined towards texture, and you can't get texture with this whole bioregenerator-flesh approach to recording." He and his band ended up recording the album in a storage room with broken windows and mysterious world maps taped to the walls. This event foreshadowed Bone Machine extremely well.

    Unquestionably Wait's most macabre work, Bone Machine oozes just as many layers as his atmospheric inclinations--from the tribal drum beats to the ravaged howling, to the touching piano ballads that have echoes of his Island years. The album certainly lacks polish in the traditional sense--percussion is more likely to be extracted from beating on abandoned hotel furniture then from using a drum set--but this primal urgency gives this album an irresistible ambiance.

    It's still arguable to me whether Waits ever surpassed Bone Machine lyrically, from the most desperate and insane lyrics that will be an utter delight to aficionados and lovers of his gnarled personality:

    "The quill from a buzzard, the blood writes the word
    I want to know, am I the sky or a bird
    `Cause hell is boiling over and heaven is full
    We're chained to the world and we all gotta pull"

    To the tender, sad ballads that add a great amount of diversity to the album and strike an almost holy emotional chord:

    "She was 15 years old
    and she'd never seen the ocean
    She climbed into a van
    with a vagabond
    And the last thing she said
    was 'I love you mom'
    And a little rain never hurt no one"

    Bone Machine is in many people's minds Wait's magnum opus. The accessibility of Wait's masterful ballads make it a great first purchased for burgeoning Tom Waits fan, and the dark, death-obsessed howls make it a mandatory addition to any obsessive lover's collection.

    5/5...more info
  • And incredible and unique piece of music
    This was my first taste of Tom Waits (I've since got some other of his albums) and I have to say that this is one of the absolute finest albums I have ever heard. At times sad and delicate, other times loud, in your face and purposely devoid of melody, Bone Machine is an experimental, eclectic album that is unlike anything else I've discovered. There are elements of rock, blues and jazz (not instrumental jazz), but this is still unique and impossible to pigeon-hole into a particular genre.

    The album opens with Earth Died Screaming, and loud, wierd and apocalyptic song that gives you a good impression of what is to come. The lyrics deal with the end of the world, only Waits is too busy thinking of his lover to notice ("The Earth died screaming while I lay dreaming - dreaming of you"). In essense though, the track is very representative of the experimental nature of the album and Waits incredible lyrics. When I say that Waits is perhaps the best lyricist I've ever heard, I am not exagerating. When coupled with Waits unique voice, at times shaky and emotional and at other times fierce and haunting, some of the greatest music I've ever heard is created.

    The album is certainly not repetitive either, nor does it outstay its welcome. Earth Died Screaming, Jesus Gonna Be Here, In The Colloseum and Murder In The Red Barn are all loud, sometimes atonal percussion lead tracks with Waits growling and spitting out bizzare and sometimes scary imagery. All Stripped Down, Such A Scream, Going Out West and I Don't Wanna Grow Up are bluesy rock songs that make you want to bang your head (incidentally, Going Out West was the only other non-electronic track alongside The Pixies' Where Is My Mind used in the Fight Club soundtrack). Dirt In The Ground, Who Are You (my vote for the greatest song on the album, which is saying something), A Little Rain, Whistle Down The Wind and That Feel are the most accessible tracks here, being melodic, ballad-like songs full of melody and emotion. Then there are The Ocean Doesn't Want Me and Let Me Get Up On It, two really wierd tracks that aren't really songs but certainly add to apocalyptic, harrowing sound of the album, and lastly there is Black Wings, and dark, mysterious latino sounding song and another highlight.

    Anybody looking for a dark, experimental and unique album needs to buy this now. I really can't say enough good things about it, nor can I find any fault in it. It isn't for everyone, this is true, but nonetheless everyone should hear it at least once....more info

  • Why bother reading this? Is five stars enough?
    If you don't know who Tom Waits is, it's okay. However though, if you like an artist with his own voice, than Tom is your man. This guy, as a song writer (paired up with his wife, Kathleen Brennan), puts you in those situations, it's nearly impossible to explain, but one listen to songs such as Murder in The Red Barn, and it comes clear. It can be pretty scary too, and as a matter of fact, these songs about death can convey death in ways you never imagined. Nearly every death metal band can't touch this. Best of all, his lyrics are direct and easy to understand. Normally, one might criticize him for that, but despite all this, his songwriting is untouchable. It's just his magic that seems to work.

    Okay, there are two "meh" piano ballads, with Tom Waits trying to croon. He was A great crooner back in the day (just check out Closing Time), but Whistle Down The Wind and A Little Rain are a bit grating.
    There kind of forgettable, and his voice just doesn't work that well on these tracks. It may have some cool lyrics and meaning, but it doesn't sound that great to me. IF that's not good enough for you, then _____ you. I just don't care for it because I don't like the attempts to go back to his old crooning voice.

    Aside from that, the rest of the stuff is pretty much gold. Murder In the Red Barn, Earth Died Screaming, and The Ocean Doesn't Want Me are so greatly done, The Ocean Doesn't Want Me in particular, is _________ creepy. ICP sounds juvenile compared to this song. You know what? Forget trying to explain this. If you can appreciate music that's well written, Tom Waits is your man. All the words in the world can't do him justice. Some albums just may need a review. He does not.

    9.0/10...more info
  • Bone Machine
    If you are a Tom Waits fan, this is his best as far as I am concerned. I actually love EVERYTHING he does but you will not be dissapointed if you purchase Bone Machine. This is the true Tom Waits at his best. ...more info
  • Great album, but not compared to his other works
    Eh. This is a great album, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a great Waits album. Certainly not his best. It definitely has highlights such as Earth Died Screaming, and the incredibly moving Dirt in the Ground, but there seem to be a lot of filler tracks and the lyrics can be sub-par for the genius I'm used to from him. I find myself wanting to skip a lot of the tracks, due to disliking the lyrical pattern (All Stripped Down sounds pretty haphazard, and as for Such a Scream; bleh, I really don't know what Waits was thinking, since he obviously has so much talent and this just sounds like not much effort was put in at all). Again, though, it's certainly worth picking up. There are brilliant pieces like Earth Died Screaming, Dirt in the Ground, Ocean Doesn't Want Me, Jesus Gonna Be Here, In the Colosseum, and Murder in the Red Barn, but I really wish Waits had just left off some of the tracks that don't add that much, since the album is well over the normal 44 minutes for a CD....more info
  • Lovely!!
    Let me state right off that there is no real bad Tom Waits album (well, ok , I never really got 'The black rider'). There are some that are better that the others. There is a huge difference between his early stuff, and his more mature works (post Swordfishtrombones). If you're new to Tom Waits start with something else (like Small Change). This album, however, has to rate as the most beautifully harrowing album he has ever come up with. It has been a difficult album for him to match, and he has not been able to thus far, though 'Mule Variations' is good enough. This album scares people (it certainly did me). But it rewards further listening. I am leaning towards saying that this is the best non-classical album I have ever heard, though it is in competition with 'Dark side of the moon' and 'Wish you were here'. I will not describe the songs, that has been done. If you like Tom Waits, and have heard, and liked, stuff from after Swordfishtrombones, then pick this up. Listen to it a few times before judging it. You will not be disappointed, even if you hate the album, you will have been exposed to something you will not get elsewhere....more info
  • Incredible
    When one breaks this music down to its poetic merits, it is one revelation after another. I had heard this record for years and it has always been one of my favorites as it is so unique, but it was not long ago that the stars were in line, and the moon was just right when almost every song revealed some of the greatest poetry I have ever heard. This is stuff of genius. PERIOD. Tom is an American treasure. ...more info
  • Fascinating, one of his best albums not to be missed!
    This album is so creative. Compare the concept and distinct sound of this CD to some of the popular junk on the radio that all sounds the same. Wow. What I love most about Waits is that he is never afraid to try new things - thus his music never gets boring. This CD is particularly groundbreaking. I think Bone Machine ranks among the finest of his albums. Note, however, that if you are a fan of early Waits material you might find this album peculiar, very different, and may even not like it.

    Every tune on here has its own flavor - Waits loves to change his voice to fit the mood and it adds so much to the music. Tracks 2 and 7 feature his "gospel-like" raspy falsetto New Orleans style, tracks 1 and 9 feature his hoarse, growling yell, and track six is a brooding speak-song poem about suicide. The highlights of the album are the wonderful, soul-searching ballads in tracks 5, 8, and my favorite on the disc, # 13 "Whistle Down the Wind". The lyrics on these songs are wonderful, and reveal the more subdued, sad crooner that Waits does so well. "Goin Out West" and "Black Wings" have a catching rhythm and beat that is hard to resist, and "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" is a humorous, playful anthem about how one becomes more pessimistic about the world with age. Overall, this album is very dark and probably won't put you in a happy frame of mind. But the material here is so potent and needs to be heard.

    One could say this is Waits' critical analysis of the modern world. Drummers would be fascinated by the several different tempos and uses of percussion on this CD (especially on track #3), yet one more reason to buy this release. It's very difficult, in my opinion, to not like or at least appreciate a few songs on this CD, because it's so wide-ranging and every song is completely different. Its well worth the money!...more info
  • A Review By Emily
    I was sleeping in my room the other night when this really scary music was playing really loud down in the basement. I got my big red flashlight and went down there and my Dad was sitting in the dark listening to this cd. He said it was my Grandpa singing and he made this scary music because I didn't clean up all my Barbies in the family room. But I saw the cd and it said Tom Waits. My Dad said Tom Waits was the name my Grandpa used when he was mad at me. Then he showed me the cover and my Grandpa looked so frightening that I ran back upstairs to my room. Well the music kept playing and I started to realize that it was kinda good and I was pretty impressed with my Grandpa. So I decided that I will leave my Barbies out again, maybe even put them in the dishwasher, so my Gramps will get mad and make another really cool angry cd. Well that's all, bye!...more info
  • One of his best
    "Bone Machine" is one of Tom Waits's best recordings because it shows all sides of the man. The down-on-his-luck crooner that was his initial persona is represented by tunes such as "That Feel" and "Little Rain." Although the entire disk is definitely on the dark side, he gets especially spooky when he uses his harshest tone of voice to croak out numbers like "Murder in the Red Barn," "Dirt in the Ground," and "All Stripped Down" with their primitive drumming and startling turns of phrase. In fact, if Waits has a weakness as an artist, it's that his rough vocals often obscure his fine lyrics. We have to listen attentively so as not to miss such gems as "There's always some killing that needs to be done around the farm" and "There's nothing wrong with a woman drinking alone in her room" (both from "Red Barn"). He shows his humorous side on one of the album's highlights, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up." Another winner is "Who Are You," one of his most plaintive tunes in a long time. I could go on and on. Tom Waits is one of the most consistently interesting singers that we have....more info
  • Opened a new world of music
    One day in 1992 a couple friends and I were browsing through albums at our local record store when Bone Machine started blaring over the store's stereo. We all stopped and just listened to a couple tracks before asking the clerk who it was. Each one of us walked out with this CD in hand. Sixteen years later this is still one of my favorite albums and it gets regular rotation at home, in the car, and at work.

    If you've never heard Tom Waits before, listen to the samples first. If you can handle his voice this is a must have.

    ...more info
  • Best Ever!
    Eccentrics rejoice! Mr Waits has (again) concoted a world for us to hide in. This is THE BEST album from an American legend! Probably a good starting place for those not familiar with the artist's work. Every song is a mental soundtrack. Most highly recommended!!!...more info
  • Mixed bag of nuts...
    Okay, to be honest, I only like 5 songs on here...but they are so good, they each deserve a star, hence the 5 star rating. Here they are..."Earth Died Screaming", "Such A Scream", "All Stripped Down", "Jesus Gonna Be Here", and "Going Out West". Those are 5 of the most classic Waits songs you'll ever hear. I especially like the part on the cd when Such A Scream kind of morphs into All Stripped Down...althoug I have no idea why. Listen to Jesus Gonna Be Here, as Tom gets his junk-joint vocals going, and the testosterone drive of Going Out West (I don't need no make-up, I got real scars...). The rest of the album really drags for me, but that is my opinion, and you are more than welcome to disagree. The slower piano songs do nothing for my inner weirdo, and neither does "I Don't Wanna Grow Up". Tom only tapped into his unique brilliance 5 times on this disc, but still, it is worth the price for the above-mentioned songs. Who knows? Maybe you will think the whole disc rocks and that I'm an uneducated idiot, which is probably mostly go buy it now and thank me later....more info
  • A long night's journey into day...
    Damn this guy's good. I've been trying to think if there's anyone who is in his league. He's the Sinatra we see at the bar, drinking his bottle of Jack, but... he's a different Jack, as well - the observant Kerouac of the new century. Springsteen and Nick Cave, John Prine and Neil Young - they all write great songs, human songs. But.... Tom Waits reaches in and pulls out the soul, then he sings to it; he sings FOR it...

    This album is a haunting one, from "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me" to "I Don't Wanna Grow Up". He throws in the ballads ("Whistle Down the Wind"), plus a few quirky rockers ("Dirt In The Ground") to help balance things out.

    It's not as ambitious as "Frank's Wild Years" or as melodic as "Closing Time", but this album has a way of making you smile....more info

  • Excellence in Weirdness
    Swinging from soul, to purely exciting garage noise, Tom Waits has gone from a singer in the back room of a bar, after hours only, singing quiet, heartfelt songs to big, noisy, deep voiced crooner of ballads that involve killers, thieves, heartbreak, crooked old men and other nasty fellows. I absolutely love Tom Waits, his music defines a very specific mood and hits the nail on the head when it comes to making the definitive "man music, music for men." ...more info
    Several of the songs on this CD are already classics: "Who Are You?" "A Little Rain," "Goin' Out West," "Black Wings." Waits is an American original. Often copied, never equalled. Listen to where Springsteen got his vocal sound from. But Springy's nowhere near as good. 'Course the copy never is as good as the original. ...more info
  • Its different...
    It's dark, it's challenging, it's what others would call 'odd'. Highlights include "Going Out West", and "I Don't Want to Grow Up". It definitely doesn't move me like Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs, but it gets the job done. If you like Tom Waits, you'll like this album....more info
  • Excellent Album
    This album is fascinating. This seems to be a continuation of his famous trilogy. I really love this album and fall more in love with it each day. Keith Richards returns to do a song which is a great highlight. Also one of the hits from the record would later be covered by The Ramones. Thats how good a songwriter Tom Waits is. Favorites include Dirt in the Ground, Who Are You, Jesus Gonna Be Here, Little Rain (For Clyde), Goin' Out West, Murder in the Red Barn, Black Wings, I Don't Wanna Grow Up (The Ramones would later cover), and That Feel (cowritten and with Keith Richards). Pick this great album up. Highly Highly Recommended...more info
  • Such a Scream
    Despite his huge cult following, Tom Waits remains one of the most underrated writers and performers in all of rock. His evolution as an artist is unparalelled with the exception of an elite few (Dylan and Bowie come to mind), and he continues to be innovative while staying true to his more conventional roots in blues, folk, and jazz.

    On Bone Machine, Waits takes the experimentation he began with 1983's Swordfishtrombones a step further, by applying some of the same production techniques and mash-ups of song styles to more thoroughly composed tunes. "Dirt in the Ground" is one of the most bluntly depressing ballads ever recorded, while in "Murder in the Red Barn," one of Waits best lyrical efforts ever, we're treated to such postmodern, pastoral lines as "Roadkill has its seasons, just like anything. It's possums in the autumn and it's farm cats in the spring." All the while, those sparse, gritty arrangements compliment Waits's madman-whose-seen-it-all attitude perfectly. Although Waits's use of primitive, clanking percussion (often seemingly on household objects), is common ground for many avant-garde classical composers like Cage or Varese, it is otherwise unheard-of in pop or rock. Just listen to the interplay of the screeching, panning guitars and machine gun percussion on "Such a Scream," while Waits growls suggestively surreal lines like "A cheetah coat fills up with steam - she's such a scream," and pray you maintain your sanity throughout the next thirteen songs.

    You probably won't, though, since Waits starts to consider suicide in a spooky, drunken drawl on the spoken-word "The Ocean doesn't Want Me," then does his best "ironically devout Christian sings the blues with a lisp" on "Jesus Gonna be Here." By the time he sounds like a blood-lusting, politically-charged ringleader ("In the Colosseum") then transforms into a pathetic middle-aged road hog ("Goin' Out West,") you'll realize that despite his utter dismissal of nearly all conventions about what constitutes "good singing," Tom Waits is perhaps the greatest singer in all of rock. His ability to represent different characters (obviously informed by his acting experience) and then inject into each one some outrageous, unique facet of his own eccentric personality, is unprecedented. There are 15 songs with vocals on this album, and there may as well be 15 different singers, because Waits delivers a completely new performance with each song.

    My only complaint about Bone Machine is that it trails off a bit at the end. "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," is a good tune about a noble subject, but doesn't match the depth of performance, or the lyrical maturity of any of the previous songs. Also, while "That Feel," is an emotionally effective song and a decent album-closer, the lyrics are incomparably vague for Waits, and one gets the impression that the presence of Keith Richards is causing Waits to level off the intensity of his own performance a bit.

    Of course, these are minor quibbles. As many other reviewers have already pointed out, this is Waits at his most sublime. Bone Machine doesn't break new ground the way Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs did in their day, and it isn't as expansive or illuminating as his recent release, Orphans - it is simply the most mature, engaging Tom Waits album to date, and the pinnacle of a fascinating career....more info
  • Utter perfection.
    Those vocals. Those lyrics. That mood. This was My first foray into Tom's world: a gift when I was 14. I haven't looked back. From the alpha (the thumping primitive drums of "Earth Died Screaming") to the omega (the howling chorus of guys and guitars finishing off "That Feel"), this CD is like nothing else on the planet. This is a macabre, twisted world: a vision entirely of Mr. and Mrs. Waits devising (Kathleen Brennan is his wife and they write together- what a team!)

    Lyrically, this is light years beyond so much music out there. Namely all of it. Waits never stoops to cliche, never resorts to the old, crusty, stale rhymes and metaphors that haunt the minds of most song-smiths. His lyrics are restlessly inventive and vivid. When he tells a story he lures you in, shows you the scene and leaves you there to figure out what happened and find your own way home again.

    On the whole, this is a dark album, and it fits easily into his output from the 80's-90's... Songs such as "In the Colosseum," and "Murder in the Red barn," are eerie and unsettling. Still, Tom doesn't just write disturbing music. "Little rain," "Whistle Down the Wind," and "Who Are You," are more upbeat pieces, meaning the lovelorn lyrics and strange musings are masked by a major-key chord progression. The musical styles veer all over the board- never quite playing its straight, some of the songs are country sounding, some are folk, a couple are blues... But not quite. They inhabit a strange place between genres.

    Some highlights:

    The rusty, falsetto croon of "Dirt in the ground" set to the kind of funeral march horns and beat you'd expect to see in New Orleans, if New Orleans were populated by half-dead prophets and zombie musicians!

    The sweet, bluesy satire of "Jesus Gonna Be Here," that sounds like Tom waits is actually a venerable bluesman from the Mississippi Delta. I played this at work once and everyone in the kitchen insisted that the singer must be a black guy. Just Tom, a bass-line and two-notes of twangy guitar. The cough at the end of the song- that cough has more soul than most band's entire discographies!!!!!

    The Ennio Morricone-esque brilliance of "Black Wings": Tom is rolling the wheel of an old film projector and he rasps and murmurs and tells the story of a strange character who has no name... This song is brilliant!!! The guitar and the swishing drums... nothing I have ever heard sounds like this.

    Buy this CD- it's a great trampoline into Waits' more out there stuff. And it's easily one of his more balanced CDs- almost no sleeper tracks!

    Fun Fact: Earth Died Screaming is used for a scene in the Gilliam film "12 Monkeys," when Bruce Willis has taken Madeleine Stowe hostage and she's driving him into a large city (Philadelphia, I think). Also, the steady cam scene in "Fight Club," where Tyler Durden and his crew walk through the junky bar and into the basement while Ed Norton voice-over's the sequence (right before he gives them The Rules...) is set to Goin' Out West- that dark, mutant surf-rock bass riff...

    C'mon, take a chance on this! ...more info
  • A Forbidding Triumph
    It takes an artist of special moxie and daring to open an album with a song like "Earth Died Screaming." With percussion that sounds like playing a xylophone made of bones and a voice that would make the cryptkeeper proud, it's an opening number straight from the banks of the River Styx, and it serves Bone Machine well. What the album seems to me is a trip out of hell, and it echoes in everything from the clanking arrangements of the songs to the flashbulb-in-the-armaggeddon cover. That means that the album represents the best capabilities of Waits' crotchety, mercurial career - a concept so winningly cohesive, that even its foreboding is inviting, and allows the occasional poignant moments like "Who Are You" and "Whistle Down The Wind" seem right in line with the brutal soundscapes around it. The album is marked at halfway and close by two anthems of stunning clarity - "A Little Rain" and "That Feel," a duet of kinds with Keith Richards. The message of both is that to be in this kind of apocalyptic land, all that allows the world to make sense is the fact that "you must risk something that matters." This album is proof of the whole process - that there's truth and hope even if "we're all gonna be dirt in the ground."...more info
  • Possibly his best
    The stellar Rain Dogs still stands as the Tom Waits classic by default, and will quite possibly forever be the standard by which all Waits albums are judged. This is unfortunate, since it should be exceedingly clear with each new release that Waits has no desire to make another Rain Dogs. Ever since that classic recording, Waits has been exploring any and all other venues of his music, and although a solid few of his tracks are definitely derivative of his earlier material, Tom Waits has never failed to keep pushing the borders of his territory further and further into left field. By this token, Bone Machine may be Tom Wait's true defining moment.

    Bone Machine presents the listener with an incredibly compelling cast of characters that are all viscerally aware in some form or another of their own mortality. From the sweeping apocalpytic imagery of "Earth Died Screaming" to the vividly personal suicidal broodings of "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me," the album explores the mind of an artist coming to grips with the inevitably of death. The issue is addressed from all angles -- the hollowly optimistic and creepily satirical 'negro spiritual' of "Jesus Gonna Be Here" views the coming of Christ through the eyes of a rambling alcoholic, while "Dirt in the Ground" moans with hushed existential symphonies as Waits croons one of the most harrowing vocal performances of his career. "In the Colosseum" assaults the reader with the most brutally unforgiving imagery Waits has ever delivered, presenting a chaotic vision of murder and bloodshed for mass entertainment. Waits spins a disturbing tale of homocide with a singsong apathy on "Murder in the Red Barn," and revels in a haunting campfire story on "Black Wings." Never has Tom Waits' hellish vision been so fully realized.

    Of course, it wouldn't be a quintessential Waits album without a few weeping ballads, and these are delivered as a touching counterpoint to the murderous cackling that makes up the majority of the record. "Who Are You" is quite possibly Wait's best slow song, delivered with a perfect mixture of anger, frustration, and heartbreak as he bitterly confronts an ex-lover about her callous life. "A Little Rain" is somewhat less successful, an occasionally cloying number that comes off somewhat aimless -- however, it's titular declaration that "tonight a little rain never hurt no one" is moving in light of the album's gloom, and offers a welcome respite. "Whistle Down the Wind" and "That Feel" finish off the album with an air of slightly bitter acceptance.

    Ultimately however, it is the album's clanging doomsday racket that makes it essential. With a few cacaphonous shorter tracks ("Such a Scream", "All Stripped Down", "Goin Out West") and the brilliantly poignant "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" rounding out the collection, it's hard to find another album in Wait's catalog or anywhere that is this artistically striking, unified, confrontational, and brilliantly executed all at once. The man is a mad but fascinating genius, and Bone Machine is one particularly amazing entry in a legendary discography. Anybody interested in a stark and twisted insight into the darker side of man's soul that is pulled off with intensity and flair should definitely look into buying this record.
    ...more info
  • wow
    This album is just incredible. I've never heard anything quite like it. It's easily my favorite Tom Waits album, and that's saying a lot. Anyone who says "I Don't Want to Grow Up" is playful or silly, I can't relate to that. That song is probably one of the saddest songs I've ever heard in my life. The album closes brilliantly with "That Feel", which sounds like he's half trying at first but gets more and more climactic. ...more info
    I really can't understand why everyone hails this album as one of his's really a tuneless piece of noise...i haven't bought any of the other albums he's recorded after this one cause they all sound the same from what i reckon!

    Best work:Blue Valentine and Swordfishtrombones
    ...more info