Wednesday, May 19, 1999

Review - Mule Variations

Artist: Tom Waits

Posted on Wed, May 19, 1999 at 4:00 AM

Mule Variations
Label: Epitaph
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Mule Variations

The older Tom Waits gets, the less complacent and more frayed he becomes. Waits started in the early '70s as a bluesy balladeer, but 1983's "Swordfishtrombones" marked the birth of his new roles: carnival barker, seedy tour guide for the petty criminal, fallen preacher, wistful romantic. His music veered toward clanging, trash-can-lid percussion, pump organs, banjoes and greasy guitars.

"Mule Variations'" first three songs exemplify Waits' modi operandi: Cascading bass and wry lyrics propel "Big in Japan"; "Lowside of the Road" sounds like a sinewy work song delivered by someone you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley; and "Hold On" submerges in sentimental longings and regret. This 16-song CD, Waits' first in six years, initially seems fascinating, in the way his work always is, but familiar. Then about halfway through -- starting with "Cold Water" and peaking with the marvelously strange "Chocolate Jesus" -- the desire and conviction become startling. It's like Waits has just been dunked in the river, and we get to watch from the banks, squinting and blinking at his faith.

Tags:

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2016 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation