Even if you can’t stand his I-just-gargled-with-hot-asphalt voice, you cannot deny that Tom Waits is a fascinating musical oddity.
He is perfectly at home saving terrible action movies and tag-teaming with Primus, providing music for Robert Wilson plays and emoting opposite Ellen Barkin. He’s a fountain of cultural strangeness, simultaneously a chameleon and a singularity, somehow blending cabaret-style showmanship with the most guttural elements of folk, blues, country, jazz, and metal.
So it’s pretty exciting that Waits has a new album coming out in October, his first since 2004’s Real Gone. He’d dropped some hints that there was new music coming, and had also announced that people should be watching his official site this morning, where he would clear up said rumors.
The new album is called Bad As Me, and the single of the same name is available for sale at your preferred digital retailer. You can hear a bit of it in the completely genius video he shot, which lambastes the very nature of privacy on the Internet and how terrible it is when surprises are spoiled.
He calls it his “private listening session.” Check it out here:
In crafting that clip, Waits simultaneously manages to drive home his very unique spot on the space-time continuum. His image has always been built around dusty tropes from characters inhabiting early-20th-century Americana (gangsters, hep cats, bootleggers, buskers, hobos, and the like), and the bits of technology scattered throughout his set all have a throwback feel, from the rotary telephone to the beat-up car that hosts the listening session at the end of the video. It’s a pretty complete construction of the Waits you’ll find on his various records.
But the fantastic twist is that Waits is well aware of the power of technology, and has managed to evolve at his own pace as his career has marched on and the music industry has become a stranger place.
Despite his prickly comments about leaks—his analogy about the birthday cake is pretty priceless—he still makes quite a few concessions to the new ways of thinking. The guy is on Twitter, and seems deeply aware of exactly where his followers are and the types of things they’d like to see (in this case, it’s viral video).
So while most people think of Waits as a throwback to a past that may or may not have ever existed, just remember that he also has a foot in the future. A true man out of time, he’s everywhere and nowhere, and as hard to pin down as the genre of his music.
And, of course, he’s easily associated with Cookie Monster.
Are you looking forward to new Tom Waits, or do his acquired-taste pipes keep you away? Let us know in the comments.
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