Tom Waits
Alice


3.5
great

Review

by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
August 28th, 2006 | 19 replies | 10,791 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


“Alice” is a haunting nightmare, much like “Bone Machine”. The title-track immediately pulls you down the rabbit hole and into a world of madness and despair. Driven by Waits’ piano line backed up by a sorrowful saxophone, the song is heartbreaking but incredibly delicate and beautiful. It sets the tone of the album perfectly; one of the most depressing Tom Waits albums to date. The album was written (like all of his recent albums) in collaboration with his life and song writing partner Kathleen Brennan, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The lyrics do not really form a story line, but are linked together by the general theme of despair. It is incredibly downbeat and dominated by ballads in the same vein as “Alice” the opener”. The ballads on this particular album are somewhat less accessible than other Tom Waits ballads you might think of (“Martha”, “Time”, “Who Are You”, “Take It with Me When I Go”), simply because they’re so depressing. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. “Alice” is one of Tom Waits’ best songs, no doubt about that.

On “Everything You Can Think” the madness begins. Tom Waits growls his way through the entire tune, in great contrast to his gentle singing on most of the other songs. Aside from this, the song is not that noticeable, and his signature growl is utilized better later on “We’re All Mad Here”, a creepy retelling of death and decomposition. A lot of the songs have their similarities musically. Most are ballads, and the flow of the album isn’t really interrupted as often as it is on most Tom Waits album. Still, “Kommienezuspadt” disrupts this flow entirely. It’s a crazy, polka-like tune, sung in something that sounds German, although most of it seems to be gibberish. I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. He howls his way through the tune, into the second highlight of the album “Poor Edward”. While it doesn’t have quite the emotional impact of “Alice”, it certainly comes close. It’s the story of a man named Edward, with a woman’s face on the back of his head, who drives him to suicide (I basically rephrased the lyrics). It’s haunting and depressing, like most of the album.

“Table Top Joe”, other than the aforementioned “Kommienezuspadt” is the song the least fits into the generalisation I’ve tried to make regarding this album. It’s not really a ballad, nor is it very heartbreaking. Its lyrical topic brings to mind Mule Variation’s “Eyeball Kid”, both telling the tale of a protagonist without a body, as strange as that sounds. It’s a catchy, swing-like tune and quite humorous, in contrast to the rest of the album. When compared to most other Tom Waits albums there really isn't that much musical variation here. It continues on the sad note until the closer: "Fawn" a gentle violin playing over basic instrumentation. The nightmare is over.

There isn’t really much else to say about “Alice”. The songs get somewhat similar at times and it’s sort of a masochistic listen in its bleakness. It's not as consistent or varied as many Tom Waits albums are, but it has a huge emotional impact. The songs “Alice” and “Poor Edward” are Tom Waits classics, and the song writing is strong throughout. A great album on its own, but in Tom Waits’ exceptional discography, it doesn’t stand up to his very best work.



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user ratings (240)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
August 28th 2006


4827 Comments


Good one, nice and short.
I know nothing about this guy, should I check him out?

Sepstrup
August 28th 2006


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Considering he's the best musical artist in the world (heh, or something) you should. Try Rain Dogs. If you don't like it, you suck.

Zappa
August 28th 2006


355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My favorite Tom Waits album, probably.

AlienEater
August 28th 2006


716 Comments


I still haven't got anything by him. I need Rain Dogs.

cool review.

Two-Headed Boy
August 28th 2006


4527 Comments


Yeah I definitely just listened to Rain Dogs.

I have this somewhere.

Zebra
Moderator
August 28th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a great short review. I consider Alice to be one of Toms strongest effort which is saying something since he has such an amazing discography. "Flowers Grave" and the title track are my favorites.

Two-Headed Boy
December 19th 2006


4527 Comments


The picture on the back of the package owns.

Jimmy
May 7th 2007


717 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

And I must be insane
To go skating on your name
and by tracing it twice
I fell through the ice

Brilliant!

Jimmy
July 22nd 2007


717 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

After listening to this album, and reading and re-reading the lyrics I think this album is as classic as they come. Tom Waits is an unbelievable songwriter.

MrKite
October 23rd 2007


5020 Comments


Those lyrics are amazing. Same for the album.


ShutTheFookinUven
December 15th 2008


81 Comments


what kind of music does he write in general?
the only song I've ever heard from this guys was "God's away on buisness"

ninjacat11
November 14th 2009


233 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is probably Tom Waits' most underrated album.

WarAllTheTime988
November 14th 2009


360 Comments


Could be. Although anything that isn't Rain Dogs and/or Bone Machine feel kind of overlooked despite all being fucking awesome! This man has no bad albums - nothing that would even fall below "great" - at least to me.

ninjacat11
November 14th 2009


233 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Definitely. Even his worst stuff is very, very listenable.

WarAllTheTime988
November 14th 2009


360 Comments


Even by his own standard I don't think Waits has "worst stuff" although I see what you're saying. Each album for me is just about perfect in every way for their own reasons. I really hope he tours soon because I am gonna go nuts if I don't see him real soon, haha!

jefflebowski
October 1st 2011


8242 Comments


The title track is absolutely stunning

Digging: Brian Eno and Karl Hyde - High Life

AStableReference
September 29th 2012


1905 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The mood of this album is just immersive. Kommienezuspadt kind of breaks the mood though.

Digging: Adult Jazz - Gist Is

sinsexsodomy
July 31st 2013


221 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Although anything that isn't Rain Dogs and/or Bone Machine feel kind of overlooked despite all being fucking awesome!"

idk about that, maybe if you refer to critics (although no one listens to those types anyways except sheep). most fans Ive talked to in person however always vote Mule Variations as their favorite waits album.

PowerBlitz
April 10th 2014


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kommienezuspadt is fantastic on its own, that's when I paid the most attention to the album. But it totally messes with the flow of the album



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