2002 – Anti-
Experimental/ Folk/ Rock/ Jazz
Tom Waits’ album Alice (mainly consisting of songs he wrote for Robert Wilson’s play of the same name) is a tour de force of beauty, weirdness, musical charm, and well crafted lyrics. Every track from start to finish just works so well and builds such an atmosphere of eerie beauty that I really believe that it can be called a masterpiece.
We start out with the title, track which slowly wails the record’s overture through half-whispered vocals and a haunting horn melody, and then move seamlessly (through a chilling train whistle) into the creepy dreamland of Everything You Can Think full of spiralling wurlitzers and demented carnie tunes. From here the album just rolls through from strength to strength easily weaving together the odd industrial jazz of Kommeinzuspadt, the world-weary folk of Fish and Bird and No-One Knows I’m Gone, and the jazz-hall toe-tapping of Table Top Joe.
Really Alice is just a brilliant collection of tunes that seem to have an amazing amount of thought put into their construction and the way that the fit together. Nothing is forgettable and nothing is at all out of place here. And it’s not just the music and the individual tracks that really capture the imagination; it’s the whole record as an entire piece of art. It tells just the suggestion of a story and creates such a subtle and sublime atmosphere that it’s impossible for the listener not to be drawn in.
Poor Edward, for example, creates such an intricate scenery of horrific madness and slowly uncoiling melancholy that the listener is almost torn between tears and screams. And Reeperbahn builds a delightfully creepy depiction of a real-world hell that one cannot help but be sucked into Waits’ world of madness and evil.
If I had to look for a downside to this incredible record I might say that it is perhaps not one to just throw on as a background to any mood or occasion (even though many of the tracks would do very well in most scenarios), and that it really is something that should be listened to with an intent ear from beginning to end. I suppose, however, that this is the case with most of Tom Waits albums produced after the Asylum Years, and, personally, I don’t believe that this is really a bad thing. I mean, sometimes one wants to listen to a record with the intention of actually listening to a record and fully appreciating it as the work of art that it is. Background music is all well and good, but sometimes one wants something a little more challenging.
There’s not really much else I can say about this record other than it’s damn near perfect. I has everything I want from Waits and more: nothing is throwaway or trivial, and every amazing track just works so brilliantly in its position on the album.
I would say that any fan of Tom Waits really needs to have a copy of this album, and anyone who claims to be a fan of music generally really needs to have a copy of this album. It’s not just something for those who ‘get’ the whole Waits thing, it really is just a piece of art that can be enjoyed by anyone (unlike perhaps Raindogs, which does take a bit of work to get into) and really should be enjoyed by everyone.
That’s really all there is to say. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and listen to it all over again.
One of the many amazing tracks from the 2002 Tom Waits’ record ‘Alice’
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