Tom Waits
Bone Machine


4.5
superb

Review

by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
May 20th, 2006 | 52 replies


Release Date: 1992 | Tracklist


”The earth died screaming, while I lay dreaming. Dreaming of you”

Those are the lyrics for the chorus of the first song, and highlight track, on Bone Machine. His signature percussion tells us immediately that this is a Tom Waits record, and then everybody’s favourite singing ash tray comes in with his vocals, confirming it beyond doubt. A love song? Maybe, but certainly not an ordinary one. But this is Tom Waits, and Tom Waits is anything but ordinary. His voice is exceptionally raspy, his music exceptionally different, and ultimately people will probably think he is either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. Average would never describe him.

Compared to some of his best albums, Swordfishtrombones and Raindogs, the album is somewhat similar, although a lot darker and less accessible, as many of the songs deal with murder and death. The songs vary wildly from sorrowful ballads (”Who Are You”, and ”A Little Rain Never Hurt No One”) to furious rocking tracks (”Goin’ Out West”), and slow bluesy songs (”Jesus Gonna Be Here”). One thing that is consistent, however, is the quality of these songs. Some will appeal more than others (A lot of his ballads aren’t as ‘intimidating’ as the rest of his music, and could be enjoyed by people who normally wouldn’t like his music), but there aren’t really any tracks that you could call weak on Bone Machine. The best song on here for people who might be put off by the dark atmosphere and raspy vocals is probably "Whistle Down the Wind”, arguably the best ballad on the album.

His music is very disorganized. "Jesus Gonna Be Here", another highlight, seems like a standard twelve bar blues, but skips a bar here and there, which some of the other songs do as well. Certain licks and sounds sometimes seem to be placed randomly throughout the songs, adding to the inaccessibility of the album. Because, like most Tom Waits albums, this is inaccessible at first, due to his voice among other things, and it takes a few listens before you can appreciate the music.

For me, the most important thing in Tom Waits’ music is the atmosphere. It’s often quite disturbing and eerie, especially when combined with the lyrics. This is perhaps even more true for his spoken-word songs, though there is only one on this album (”The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me Anymore”), a particularly unsettling song. ”A Murder In The Red Barn” is another good example. It is not a spoken-word song, but certainly one of the most frightening songs on the album. You can hear the floorboards creaking, as Tom Waits rasps: ” ‘Cause there’s nothin’ strange / About an axe with bloodstains in the barn / There’s always some killin’ / You got to do around the farm / A murder in the red barn / Murder in the red barn”

The best song on the album is probably ”Dirt In The Ground”, a song about the inevitable fact that we are all going to die: ”Ask a king or a beggar / And the answer they’ll give/ Is we’re all gonna be / Yea yea / We’re all gonna be just / Dirt in the ground” His vocals are somewhat high-pitched, at least compared to his usual singing, and admittedly, they annoyed me at first. After countless listens, I find this to be an incredibly moving, heartfelt song, definitely one of his best, and it pretty much sums up what the album is about. Another strong contender is album closer ”That Feel”, another ballad, featuring Keith Richards on back up vocals. It is a comforting end to the harrowing nightmare that is Bone Machine, and all in all a beautiful song.

Bone Machine is dark, sad, furious, frightening and beautiful; a masterpiece of experimental rock. It may not be his magnum opus (I feel any aspiring music critic needs to use that term at one point or another), an accolade that probably goes to Rain Dogs, but it certainly would have been for most artists. It remains one of his darkest and most interesting albums.



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user ratings (431)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
josephbh1 (5)
......

Glueman (5)
Tom Waits descends into the darkest depths of his career on this, his most focused and consistently ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
masada
May 20th 2006


2733 Comments


No mention of "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"?

Sepstrup
May 20th 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

There are a lot of songs I feel deserve a mention... I don't think I Don't Wanna Grow Up is one of the best tracks. It does stand out though.This Message Edited On 05.20.06

Zebra
Moderator
May 20th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was planning on doing this review but I'm glad that you wrote this and did a good job on it. This may just be my favorite Waits album, it really depends on what mood I am in. Jesus Gonna Be Here and That Feel are my favorite songs at the time but all of these songs are very well done.

CaptainWaits
May 22nd 2006


21 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

If I had to sum it down, this could be my favorite Waits album, but it depends.....well done on the review too!

Sepstrup
May 22nd 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Which albums can you guys recommend by him? I've only heard Closing Time, Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and this one (I've listened to Alice and Franks Wild Years once)

I'm just going to buy some more, because I want to own all of his albums anyway

MyRamona
May 22nd 2006


1090 Comments


I've only heard I don't wanna grow up from this. I'll search for more, he's definately a grower.

Sepstrup
May 23rd 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't wanna grow up is musically quite different from most of this album. It sticks out, but I'm not that fond of the song.

Sepstrup
August 4th 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like it now... It probably should have been mentioned in the review. Might edit it if I feel like it.

MrKite
July 12th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm a little ways into this and I don't think it's gonna need growing time for me to like it.
Tom sure is one of a kind.

Meatplow
July 15th 2007


5524 Comments


Damn this is one depressing album from the few songs i have heard....

Earth Died Screaming, I Don't Wanna Grow Up & Dirt In The Ground are great songs but the instill in me such feelings of dread i find them hard to listen to. Mule Variations is my favourite Waits album of the moment, i've just started getting into this. This guy is a legend.

BallsToTheWall
September 10th 2007


44800 Comments


This sounds very interesting. Im gonna have to check this out. Is this a bit like Danzig?

Digging: Pink Turns Blue - If Two Worlds Kiss

blackmilk
September 10th 2007


584 Comments


Not at all..

MrKite
September 10th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Where did you get that idea Balls?

BallsToTheWall
September 10th 2007


44800 Comments


I heard that this was a very dark and depressing cd. It was reccomended to me, and reminded me for some reason of danzig. He's my favorite singer so I was wondering. Even if its not, it sounds like something I could probaly enjoy to open up my music taste a bit.

MrKite
September 10th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Buy it. Don't chuck it after the first listen though.

Meatplow
November 4th 2007


5524 Comments


This is possibly one of the best albums I have ever heard now I have given it time to unfold it's magic.

jrowa001
December 15th 2007


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i love this album. In the Colosseum is the only song that i am not a fan of though. Tom Waits is just the coolest motherfucker on the planet

low88
December 18th 2007


11 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well, I disagree with most of the people here. I'm generally not too fond of the emotional tracks by Tom Waits. I like better his dynamic, weird tracks. And here there are many more of the former than the latter. I'd choose Rain Dogs or Swordfishtrombones over this easily.

Jimmy
February 5th 2008


717 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great album

Meatplow
June 12th 2008


5524 Comments


i love this album. In the Colosseum is the only song that i am not a fan of though. Tom Waits is just the coolest mother****er on the planet


Strange as it may be that song is often the one that gets stuck in my head most :p

I've just gotten used to it I guess.



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