Friday, June 17, 2011

Tom Waits - Blue Valentine

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine
Asylum, 1978
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2011
Price: $4

The only Tom Waits record I own, and I bought it because it has “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” which always finds its way into heavy rotation around Christmastime despite being fucking sad as all hell. Listening to Blue Valentine, I’m listening to it through the filter of having seen the 2010 movie of the same name. A good movie that, like this album, is full of sadness and desperation yet lacking the grit of Mr. Waits who can clearly weather this storm unlike the film’s disintegrating couple who can’t deal ever. I should say, there are only a couple of songs that I tied back to that movie (the aforementioned “Christmas Card” in which the aforementioned hooker mentions a new man who’s gonna raise the baby in her belly that ain’t his (granted, this all turns out to be a big fat sad lie)). Jenny is listening to this right now and is clearly uncomfortable. “How do people like Tom Waits?” she asks during “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard” and first I say “BECAUSE HE’S TOM FUCKING WAITS.” Then I say “BECAUSE HE’S FUCKING AWESOME.” And then, actually thinking about the question, I say “Because no one else in the world sounds like Tom Waits and it’s totally pure and unique and the rough-around-the-edges-ness of it all is one of the things that makes it so great.” Something like that, not so eloquent. “Kentucky Avenue” follows “Whistlin’” and I say “People love Tom Waits because of shit like this, these slow sad songs that sound like they’re coming from the belly of a dive bar in the seediest part of the seediest city in the world.” Something like that. The way the strings swell up in that song when the lyrics start really, really blowing you away is spectacular. “I’ll take the spokes from you wheelchair/ And a magpies wings/ And tie ‘em to your shoulders and your feet/ I’ll steal a hacksaw from my dad/ And cut the braces off your legs/ And we’ll bury them in the night in the cornfield.” It’s beautiful and heartswelling and elegant. One doesn’t typically associate elegance with Tom Waits, what with that gruff drawl that slinks across his back catalog, but on those sad slow piano songs he knows exactly how to break your heart. And THAT is why people like Tom Waits. Besides the fact that he’s a total badass, but that’s a given.

1 comment:

  1. "Because he's fucking Tom Waits!" Amen, brother. Just came across your blog & I'm really enjoying it- great concept.