Friday, June 10, 2005

Do You Play Canasta?

Tom Waits - Innocent When You Dream (78)

The Tom Game has been going on for a good long time now. It involves you considering his various masks and trying to decide which is actually him. Peek a Boo! Here I am. No, over here. You're getting warmer.

There are critics who find this endlessly fascinating and see it as clear evidence of Mr Waits' genius. Make no mistake, he's one great songwriter. "Kentucky Avenue" has reduced me to tears. But he gets away with a little too much for my liking. What was that line about "Real Gone"? Tom has invented Cubist Funk...? Oh come on, now. Anyone remember The Pop Group? Or Captain Beefheart, for God's sake?

I think it was after "Bone Machine" that I realised The Tom Game was a complete waste of time. I great weary of the Insane Fairground Barker line that he insisted on maintaining and I went back to the early albums, well represented on the compilation, "Asylum Years" (which contains "Kentucky Avenue", by the way) . Then I scoped forward to the later albums and looked for traces of the less affected Tom amongst the cows in mailboxes and dwarves in fish tanks.

"Frank’s Wild Years" is what you'd call a difficult album. I love it like a relative I only want to see every ten years or so over a pint at a family gathering. But I would never ever deny it.

There are two versions of "Innocent When You Dream" on there. The first is a full bore barroom balladeer falling into the piano routine. The second, which is what you get here, is where he stops hamming it up for the audience and just sings. He does that every now and again. It's a little creepy, like not recognising yourself in a mirror and then, when you do, wondering if it's you anyway.

So even here The Tom Game goes on, two versions, Funhouse mirrors, one more "real" than the other. But you get the feeling that he put this version out so we could see him wondering just where the Hell he was and why was the map always upside down, no matter which way he turned it...

Buy - Tom Waits - Franks Wild Years
Buy - Tom Waits - Asylum Years
Visit - Tom Waits

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