Blood Money is comprised of thirteen songs originally written for a production of the play Woyzeck (originally written in 1837) that was staged in the Netherlands in 2000. This is a play that explores the gradual degradation and mental breakdown of a soldier driven to the edge by murderous medical experiments and the infidelity of his lover, who he subsequently murders. Anyone familiar with Tom Waits’ recent recordings will recognize this as fertile material for his mind.
The album opens with a burst of sulphur and steam as Waits and his merry men declare “Misery is the River of the World,” a rollicking, hurdy-gurdy number that they must row to on the river Styx. While on other tracks, Waits waxes eloquently by declaring, “Everything Goes to Hell,” and my favorite, “God’s Away on Business.” On this track, Waits deftly employs his dark imagination and declares, “ Digging up the dead with a shovel and a pick/It’s a job, it’s a job/Bloody moon rising with a plague and a flood/Join the mob, join the mob/It’s all over, it’s all over, it’s all over…/Who are the ones that we kept in charge?/Killers, thieves and lawyers/God’s away, God’s away, God’s away/On Business/Business.”
Of course, what in print may appear morbid or macabre is sometimes funny when heard. Waits’ gravelly voice coupled with his carnival, jazz, and cabaret leanings keeps the energy up and always makes for an entertaining listen.
This isn’t just novelty music, though. Tom Waits is well regarded critically, and rightfully so. His musical skill encompasses everything from folk, country, and singer/songwriter material to boozy raveups and experimental recordings with his own hand-crafted instruments. On this release, he’s harnessed his talents to a disc that seems intended to lend a hand to the chorus of Hades in their annual summer music festival. Death, despair, cripples, and lawyers all jostle together in this mixture as if Elvis Presley was the bastard son of Hieronymous Bosch.
If you are unfamiliar with Tom Waits, you may wish to steer a wide berth around this disc. On the other hand, if you are familiar with his good-natured grouch persona and his tales of booze, women, and murderers in ice wagons, than you are more than welcome to pull up a seat. If you agree that “My favorite words are good-bye and my favorite color is red,” as he sings on “A Good Man is Hard to Find, then you are already with us.
Anti Records: http://www.anti.com