Greg Baker 10 – 5 – 2005 Tom Waits – Mule Variations Tom Waits, gravel-voiced singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
, serial liar and showman extraordinaire provides us with another insight into his unique world with the release of Mule Variations. Listening to any album by Tom Waits is a bit like falling into a surreal landscape built of cigarettes, whisky and song. Mule Variations is no exception, from the outset it assaults you with a barrage of blistering metallic bass combined with Waits’ cracked, distorted, nicotine-scarred voice This onslaught isn’t without respite; for all the metallic fury of its outset, the album your ears a moment’s succour here and there. Lowside of the Road is far more relaxed and spatial, echoes of freeways winding through the desert, just the obscure carnival that are Waits’ characters reminding you that you are not in Kansas anymore. As the journey continues, Waits’ introduces more and more vivid and bizarre characters into his spectacularly warped dreamscape America. A thoroughly mixture of drunks and itinerants, each touchingly crafted, superbly observed, and genuinely romantic, each accompanied with music that varies from being so bone dry it cracks, to rich warm and luxurious setting them in a landscape that brings each one to life. Not everything in Mule Variations is so western or even bizarre; In House Where Nobody Lives he manages to concoct a broken-down blues ballad to an old, deserted,
broken-down house. A melancholy melody stuffed with poignant questions about how this once love filled place is now so desolate. How such a beautiful picture is crafted from so common a sight really goes to demonstrate Waits’ talent as songwriter. This album is so whisky filled and nicotine stained that it surely should carry a government health warning. That said despite its potentially devastating effect on your health, it is certainly ambrosia to the soul. I cannot recommend it highly enough.