Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Album Reviews
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 10-20-2010, 11:03 AM   #51 (permalink)
killedmyraindog
 
TheBig3's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Posts: 9,252
Default

alright well lets shoot for Bone Machine. I have a game tonight, but I'll try and kick it out. Otherwise expect it Thursday.
TheBig3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2010, 12:51 PM   #52 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826
Default

Ah, Bone Machine! Absolutely loved it when I first gave it a spin, but it's been an insanely long time since I last listened to it. Looking forward to seeing what you've got to say about it.
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-04-2010, 10:12 AM   #53 (permalink)
killedmyraindog
 
TheBig3's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Posts: 9,252
Default




Released September 8, 1992
Recorded Prairie Sun Recording, Cotati, California
Genre Rock, Experimental
Length 53:30
Label Island
Producer Tom Waits

In some ways, Waits is like Dickens or Shakespeare in that his catalogue is long enough, and large enough to have phases, style changes, and growth. In the burgeoning subcultures of artist-followings that wax and wane with the tumult of generational changes; the slothing off of the old and the induction of the new, and the cultural changes that form the prism through which we view things, albums, novels, plays, and films often see their own peaks and valleys over the coarse of time. Certain works age well, some don’t. There are innumerate factors as to why something falls out of fashion and why it comes back into favor but nothing is better than the debates about the value of these albums among the faithful. This leads me to Bone Machine.

Bone Machine is what many regard as the 1992 masterpiece of Waits, often cited as inspiration by acts (though without expression in their music) and heralded as a top 3 in the overall timeline. It also happened to be an album I never quite understood. Why its critical acclaim was so high, especially in hindsight, never jived with me. Its not to say that Bone Machine isn’t good, but, well lets start from the top…

If you’re standing at the bottom of 2010, reflecting back on a careers worth of music from Tom Waits, its hard to see how Bone Machine trumps his Big 3; The Heart of Saturday Night, Raindogs, and Mule Variations. That isn’t my opinion, that’s generally the critical worlds analysis save for those few institutions that pay their bills on contrarian’s smugness.

For one thing, its got one of the stronger consistencies of any album. The deviations on Bone Machine appear at the end, and you need to check back in with reality to make sure you haven’t immersed yourself too deeply in the album. One finds the difference of songs on albums like Bone Machine to be akin to that of the difference between bands in some tiny, “underderground” movement of a subgenre that enjoys its glory in the mouths of social renegades only to be relegated to the barging bins of ailing records stores in the far reaches of a nation, where big commercialism has yet to strangle the last vestiges of small business from the region. In short, only when it becomes all you listen to can you accurately sparse A from B.

Bone Machine also has the distinction of being a transitional record. Like Swordfishtrombones, Bone Machine stands on the cusp of an ethos redraft from the euro-centric vaudeville of the 80’s albums to the bitter and ragged Americana that came to embody the new century.

And forgetting all of this, it plays like the demo version of Mule Variations before it got cleaned up, rewritten, and had its plotlines revisited and sharpened.

At this point it probably looks like I hate the album, and think it sucks. Its understandable, but understand this is a preliminary vision, and if anything, a warning against approaching the album incorrectly. As I said at the top, albums are often reborn with new cultural understanding.

What Bone Machine does very well, and is its strongest attribute, is that it builds a world for its listener. Earlier I cited ****ens and Shakespeare, but for Bone Machine it might be more appropriate to cite Faulkner. Waits albums are often full of a cast of characters sprawling across the world; Raindogs has Sailors in Singapore, Soldiers in World War 2, and a bunch of guys hanging out in Union Square (presumably New York’s US). Heart of Saturday Night finds people in Wisconsin, San Diego, and the Moon. But Bone Machine is Faulkner because these characters are all in the same little town, if not in words, than certainly in musical accompaniment.

Where it is can be hard to tell, but as critics are want to do, we can look at the first track, “The Earth Died Screaming”, and surmise that towns might be irrelevant in the post-apocalyptic universe that these characters inhabit. And in this world, the music is lower than backwoods, in many ways its scrap yard. I use that word to help us understand, but to the characters, music might have to come from what you find laying in the rubble, organized scrap yards might be a thing of the past.

The music is coarser and darker than anything prior, and even Mule Variations only matched it in moments. The only album able to match wits (or scraping metal as it were) with Bone Machine is Real Gone, and at least that album has a map associated with it. The lumbering stomp of In the Coliseum and the coconut trot of Earth Died Screaming seem to approach the idea of on coming doom with the slow torture of wait in different capacities. It suggest that it may come on us as a mob of society agreeing we should all be slaughtered for enjoyment, or that it will greet us at our lowest, when the world seems desolate, and for no one to find our corpse.

Even when Bone Machine does manage to dust itself off and make itself presentable to polite society, it busies itself by foraging in the dark recesses behind closed doors where culture is gone, and people are the real, raw monsters that hide behind corsets and makeup, suits and toupees. On Murder in the Red Barn, Waits visits the silence of rural inclusiveness, even in the face of unspeakable horror and goes so far to relate its culture to being numb to such trivialities (“there’s nothing strange about an axe with blood stains in the barn, there’s always some killin’ you got to do around the farm”). On Going out West, it would seem our protagonist was headed for LA, but given the album, we might wonder if his overall delusions allow him to believe there was an LA left.

In each, the production is expertly woven into the plot. Every piano bench creek, blown-out speaker, and missed note remains in, giving the album all the character flaws that come with humanity, to the elements those instruments represent.

Bone Machine, in the end, is a strong album, albeit alien in concept to the overall discography and certainly to the albums preceding it. I can’t say where I rank it, in fact, many consider my ranking outright backward to begin with, but lists are for the simple-minded. If we cannot explore each element, down to the note and see how it balances with the world around it, we will lose sight of what truly matters, that we are few things more than the world we place ourselves in, and the characteristics the world places on us.

To that end, maybe we shouldn’t review Bone Machine as an album in time, but a soliloquy in an act, within a play, describing not the person but an ethos on the creation of how Waits makes his overall albums. One dark and murky rant through a rusted out megaphone, about how if we don’t all pay attention, the oceans going to swallow us up whole. Then again, there are days where that’s a blessing, and sometimes the ocean doesn’t want you that day.

Last edited by TheBig3; 11-08-2010 at 01:13 PM.
TheBig3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-04-2010, 12:08 PM   #54 (permalink)
.
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 4,507
Default

Great review, Big 3! I myself am somewhat new to Waits, and thus far I've heard Swordfishtrombones, Closing Time, and Bone Machine - which I must admit made the biggest impression on me. I must have listened to Murder in the Red Barn and Dirt in the Ground 100 times afterward.
someonecompletelyrandom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-05-2010, 06:33 AM   #55 (permalink)
True to username
 
Unrelenting's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,100
Default

Bone machine was most certainly one of Waits' most focused records. Goin' Out West is one of my favorite Tom Waits songs to date.
__________________
My lastfm
Unrelenting is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-08-2010, 10:37 AM   #56 (permalink)
air quote
 
Engine's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: pollen & mold
Posts: 3,050
Default

I spent a good amount of time tearing apart areas of my house looking for my copy of Bone Machine after I read your review. It reminded me how much I like that album. It also reminded me that even though I consider his 'middle' stuff to be his golden years - the later albums are also great. I prefer the later albums to the oldest ones a lot. Anyway, I never found my Bone Machine copy but did dig out The Black Rider and Mule Variations and have had 'em on almost permanent rotation
Engine is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-08-2010, 10:39 AM   #57 (permalink)
Account Disabled
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Scotland
Posts: 4,355
Default

Great review of my favourite Waits album Big3. Well done.
James is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-08-2010, 01:03 PM   #58 (permalink)
killedmyraindog
 
TheBig3's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Posts: 9,252
Default

thanks, gentleman. Anything to advance the cause of awesome.

Anyone have a favorite Bone Machine track?

Personally, I swing between Black Wings, Going Out West, and Murder in the Red Barn (which as I recall are close on the album). Depends on the mood, but I guess the one I go back to the most is Black Wings. Its not too abrasive in sound, and creates a mood beyond chaos.
TheBig3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-08-2010, 01:06 PM   #59 (permalink)
Account Disabled
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Scotland
Posts: 4,355
Default

Mine would certainly be Murder In The Red Barn. That track never gets old.
James is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-08-2010, 01:15 PM   #60 (permalink)
killedmyraindog
 
TheBig3's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Posts: 9,252
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Engine View Post
I spent a good amount of time tearing apart areas of my house looking for my copy of Bone Machine after I read your review. It reminded me how much I like that album. It also reminded me that even though I consider his 'middle' stuff to be his golden years - the later albums are also great. I prefer the later albums to the oldest ones a lot. Anyway, I never found my Bone Machine copy but did dig out The Black Rider and Mule Variations and have had 'em on almost permanent rotation
So did you like the review or did it make you reevaluate your memories of Bone Machine?
TheBig3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



2003-2019 Advameg, Inc.

SEO by vBSEO 3.5.2 ©2010, Crawlability, Inc.