a thorough stomping

28 Sep

I read once that to write about Tom Waits, you need all the brown words you can think of. ‘Whiskey,’ ‘brunette,’ ‘earth,’ ‘scab,’ ‘horseshit.’ But it’s also true that you need your ‘g’ words. Grunt, growl, guttural, grit, gravel, gore, gas chamber. If you’re in the mood to have his ogre’s voice stomp you into the ground, check out his contribution to N.A.S.A.’s “Spacious Thoughts” (below).

I first heard the track back in 2009—Paste tossed it on the Sampler CD for their 50th issue—but for some reason it really only hooked me this week.

Waits is a fascinating character, in music and elsewhere—I don’t know anyone else who’s inspired this level of historical archiving and independent cataloging—and I can’t stress enough how much you need to check out Swordfishtrombones the album and Swordfishtrombones the book (by David Smay) from your local library. Don’t get just one. Unless you’re a Tom Waits scholar, you’ll be at least a little lost without the crutch of the other. Together, though, it’s just like following a map. And there’s a lot to unearth.

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