Review Summary: Tom Waits' Blood money delivers full of melancholy themes, vast range of instruments to leave a hauntingly beautiful album.
As I sit here on this glum, gloomy day, I ponder as to what CD will reflect this weather. Tom Waits’ Blood money pops into mind. This album isn’t exactly grim but does comprise of similar themes which one would if it was hauntingly, dark day. The themes are to a cetain extent similar to that of a previous album (Bone Machine) of his. These themes are of misery, despair and other nonchalant, melancholy themes.
The thing that is different from Bone machine is the fact that these themes still seem fresh, not overused. This could be due to the fact that he co-wrote all of the songs with his wife, Kathleen Brennan. Therefore, there are less drunkard ramblings, that is not to say that there is not any of these songs. Songs such as ‘Everything goes to hell’ could be taken at first glance as a paranoid, drunkard preaching about how the world in a way is already hell. This is not entirely true but has some of these sentiments about the song. However, the theme of love occurs in the track ‘Coney island baby’ with lyrics such as ‘She’s a rose, she’s the pearl/ She’s the spin on my world’
. ‘God’s away on business’ is a bit anti-religious a he sings ‘God’s away, god’s away/ God’s away on business, business’
with the last business being emphasized. The final track ‘A good man is hard to find’ seems to be a bit of a retrospective track which seems would have been majority written by Kathleen. He sings ‘A good man is hard to find/ Only strangers sleep in my bed’
. Most of these themes are similar to that of Bone machine or Rain dogs, however, with the use of Kathleen Brennan also writing with him they don’t get overused or become tedious.
There are a variety of instruments and members which were used on Blood money. Some of the instruments used are a calliope, violin, piano, chamberlain, marimba and floor toms. There are also a few brass instruments used which adds a jazzy, folky feel to the album. Tom doubles up on a few tracks such as ‘Starving in the belly of a whale’ where he uses piano, chamberlain and electric guitar. None of the instruments seem to clutter the album as they are used sparingly and with purpose. A marimba is the cousin instrument to a xylophone where as a chamberlain is similar to that of the mellotron. The instrumentals ‘Knife chase’ and ‘Calliope’ demonstrate that he doesn’t always have to sing to show his feels. ‘Knife chase’ has the feeling of exactly what the title suggests, this is due to the various instruments going off on a tangent, there is not a lot of structure in the song. This could turn off a lot of people, as most of the songs are similar to this.
Blood money is a very good portrait of Tom Waits lyrics. The themes are not overused, even though they are similar to that of previous records Bone Machine and Rain dogs. The themes are mainly of melancholy, however, with the use of co-writer and wife Kathleen Brennan there are themes of love with tracks like ‘Coney island baby’ and ‘A good man is hard to find’ being perfect examples of this. The problem which I’m sure a lot of people will have with Tom Waits is his raspy, drunkard vocals. To me this just stimulates the senses and the themes with which he sings. The instruments are used to get the themes across very effectively. There are a lot of instruments but it never takes away from the lyrics, however, only enhances them.