June 30, 2004
Academy Award nominated and Grammy Award winner, Tom Waits has been long considered one of music’s most influential artists because he has continuously created music outside of fad or fashion. With REAL GONE, his off-road adventures are taken into the further beyond. Mixing and mashing: worlds both sonic and ethnic, musical traditions both new and old, and rhythms both mouth-made and sampled from his own instruments, Waits has reached a new pinnacle.
Written and produced by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, his wife and long-time collaborator, REAL GONE features 15 tracks of funk, Jamaican rock-steady, blues both urban and rural, rhythms and melodies both Latin and African and, for the first time, no piano.
The crash and collide of rhythms and genres within a song creates a hybrid unlike any music he has made before. The comic, funky, hip-hop/r&b inspired instructional dance number, “Metropolitan Glide” (“now show your teeth, bray like a calf/Then kill me with your machine gun laugh”) and the sonic mayhem and nonsense rhyme ride to “Top of the Hill” (why don’t you give me another cup of that soup?/Turn a Rolls Royce into a chicken coop”) are both punctuated by a live band and turntable playing along to Waits’ home recorded voice percussion.
Lyrically and musically the kinetic songs play against the haunting lull of the ballads. The epic, ominous and hypnotic Jamaican rock-steady groove of, “Sins of the Father,” follows the dark trails of straying, passed on from generation to generation, from those at the top to those at the bottom and back around again, echoing a theme of the record.
While Waits has traditionally used his voice as an actor, inhabiting each song with a different vocal character, on numerous songs here, he also uses it as chugging, sputtering, wheezing syncopated engine of sound and rhythm that can explode like a string of sidewalk firecrackers or sound like the indecipherable incantations of a street corner shaman.
REAL GONE is a phrase that describes a place, a time beyond reach: a lost mind, a renegade leader, war love sublime, love lost, death, desire, escape. These are the themes of the record inspired by the giddy lust, high voltage, out of orbit times---a vertigo of splash and trash popular culture spinning alongside the gun to our head and the knife in our heart political times or as “Shake It” says, “I feel like a preacher waving a gun around.”
REAL GONE is also an expression used by musicians to describe the experience of playing and losing yourself to the place where you can finally be found.
In a musical career that has spanned four decades and over 20 albums “Waits has,” according the Los Angeles Times Robert Hilburn, “come through it all with a body of work that stamps him clearly as one of the most important figures of the modern pop era.” REAL GONE adds more weight to that claim.