Episode 34: Tom Waits Pt. 2

Tom Waits

This Waitsmas Finale is dedicated to Ralph Carney. Rest in peace buddy—wherever you are, I hope you’re playing a saxophone and bass clarinet at the same time, you incredible badass.

Can you hear the blind street urchins banging their garbage cans? The rabbit bones clattering through our drain pipes? The conjoined twins looming portraits of the damned on Broadway? Do you know what it all means folks? That’s right: Waitsmas day is upon us! We’ve finally reached the apex of the one true holiday season, and are celebrating in style by inviting recurring castaway/life and death of the party Andy McAlpine to gush our way through the second half of the Tom Waits oeuvre, from the dramatis personae of Franks Wild Years to the raucous collage of Bad As Me.

After the Kathleen Brennan-inspired madness of Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs established a new direction for Tom Waits, he embarked on some of the freest experimentation of his career, embracing industrial primitivism on the apocalyptic Bone Machine and a Burroughsian carnival on The Black Rider. It was a period where he took his newfound freedom into strange new places, creating strange works that would never be repeated again before. And then, with the impeccable Mule Variations, the Tom Waits sound was fully canonized, setting off his path into respected elder statesman. But while many icons go stale at that point, Tom continued to make incredible albums, and while his pace has slowed down the quality of it has been as high as ever.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that this is one of our most enthusiastic episodes since Sleater-Kinney, a beer-fueled mirth-fest that’s as raucous and celebratory as Waitsmas day should be. It’s all about finding joy in the darkness, and we can’t think of a better way to cap off a year like this than by inviting you to join us here, in this cave, around this weird-smelling yet intoxicating fire we call Tom Waits. Pay no mind to the screaming. Also: Andrew dispels the myth of Coney Island, Andy gives the traditional Waitsmas presents, and Max dies at the end.

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