Tom Waits not ‘Gone’ yet

Tom Waits, the man, the legend, has done it yet again. His newest album, “Real Gone” released by Anti Records on Oct. 15, has continued his tradition of making powerful music using odd methods. This album is his first since the dual release of his albums “Alice” and “Blood Money” in spring 2002, and it is definitely worth a listen.

Waits has reinvented himself once again as a breakthrough artist, fusing types of music to create a new sound that, frankly, is difficult to explain. His music has taken on a rhythmic oddity that is exploited in this new album with the addition of Waits’ vocal percussion. His voice is heard keeping the time in many of the new songs, his gravelly vocals beating away the rhythm while seemingly random guitar, drum, and bass parts play over him. He’s even recruited his son Casey for “Real Gone,” who has many functions on the album but most prominently adds a hip-hop quality with turntables.

You may be saying to yourselves, “Who is this guy, and why haven’t I ever heard of him,” but I can save you the trouble of answering. Truth is, you probably have heard him and never even knew it. For the film “Shrek 2,” Waits contributed a tune played in the movie by the infamous Captain Hook with his one good hand. The song was called “Little Drop of Poison.” Remember him yet?

A track from “Real Gone” called “Day After Tomorrow” was released on a politically driven CD titled “The Future Soundtrack of America” alongside the work of other artists such as Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182 and R.E.M. “Day After Tomorrow” captures the life of a soldier, a fitting topic for the conflicts of today.

Put simply, Waits has become a monument in music, breaking barriers between genres like he has been doing for years. This is his 25th solo album and he doesn’t show any signs of quitting. If his new album is any indication of what we can expect in the future, Waits is only getting better. With each new cigarette and each new song of lost love and longing for another shot of whiskey, Waits tells us a story of pain. It’s a story that’s hard to ignore.

“Real Gone” is an electric pillbox, a homogeneous concoction of mood elevators, mind liberators and downers, an alchemical universe of rattling chains, oscillating rhythms and nine-pound hammers,” Waits says.