Tom Waits is an amazing encyclopedia of weird Americana. Sheer unparalleled creepiness dribbles from nearly everything he records. And it’s all strangely familiar.
Where I grew up in the belly of West Virginia, there was never a shortage of abandoned barns and storage houses packed with rusty implements, cracked picture frames, and stacks of newspapers with headlines like “New Deal Called Inevitable Social Upset By Science” and “Councilman Abandons Post for Siam and Parts Unknown”. So every mention he makes of some odd character or busted up old thing, I think “I remember that.” I find great comfort where my girlfriend hears rumbling ick.
So this is all a roundabout why of saying that Tom’s 2008 Glitter and Doom Tour is being featured in a new live album due out next month. It’s a two-disc grab-all of performances pulled from recordings from the tour’s miscellaneous stops, ranging from Birmingham to Milan. It’s like climbing through my childhood, which probably doesn’t reflect well on my youth, but hey, I never got lockjaw, so it obviously worked out fairly well in the end.
From what I’ve heard from bootlegs (and a preview sampler available from tomwaits.com, where the album can be preordered on CD or vinyl), it seems Tom and his motley crew have taken the poor little songs and all but strangled them in the bathtub. Which is a very, very good thing. Tom’s always been an engaging, higgledy-piggledy presence on stage, and he takes these songs with both hands and tries like hell to turn them inside-out. I get the image of a chicken being pulled apart by its wings.
Posted below is “Circus”, one of the foremost songs in the parade of the absurd that is Glittle and Doom Live. The song originally appeared on 2004’s Real Gone. Live, the song’s creepiness goes skyrocketing off the scale. And for some reason, it wraps around me like a cozy shawl.