Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards


{mosimage}Orphans is divided into three parts, arranged by title and theme. The first disc, Brawlers, is the rock and blues album with the artist traveling across the darkest places of American music, from the demented rockabilly Lie to Me to a cover of the Ramones’ The Return of Jackie and Judy, and to the political song Road to Peace that narrates a suicide-bomber’s attack and its aftermath, based on a news article from the New York Times.

The second disc, Bawlers, includes the heartbroken ballads. It is a bar-room moment of sweet solitude as the piano is drinking and does the talking. There are some tunes from movie soundtracks and again the Ramones appear in a reinvented cover of Danny Says, which is one of the most desperate moments of the 20-song collection.

Finally, Bastards is the weirdness, the cabaret and carnival music. Musical experiments accompany twisted stories and the words of Charles Bukowski, Bretch &Weill. Tom Waits also delivers several of his specialties on stage: spoken-word performances, like the funny The Pontiac, which seems to have been recorded in a diner from a Jim Jarmusch movie.

The usual top-class guest musicians (Larry Taylor, Les Claypool, Marc Ribot and Charlie Musselwhite, among others) help Tom Waits, but the most outstanding instrument is the voice. The howls, the groans, the beat-box rhythms and the whispers of a broken voice define the world described by Orphans.

The first intention of this set might have been to create a compilation, but the results are certainly strange and messy. However, whatever else it may be, it definitely represents the multiple facets of the most unique and changing songwriter of the last 30 years.