Tom Waits – Foreign Affairs

Um…NO? This isn’t it. The solution to feeling trapped in alky sadsack loungism is NOT to venutre into showtime freejazz orchestral cinematic nonsense. Yes, it’s his jazziest album yet, and maybe that suits your taste, but it comes at the awful expense of the songwriting. Over half of these songs don’t have melodies at all! And it’s not like they’re replaced with something fantastic. It sounds like Tom lost his muse and tried to reclaim it with plaintive musical exploration to compensate, to poor effect.

There are nine songs here. How many of them are any good? Well, the opener is a two-minute instrumental “waltz” with no memorable musical phrases that’s notable mostly for making you say “hm, I sure hope this album picks up!” “Muriel” is a piano number that sounds like a filler track on an older album. “I Never Talk to Strangers” has a trumpet blowing all over the piano but instead of lyrics has a stereotypical barroom conversation between Tom Waits and an unidentified female. It’s a pick-up convo that revolves around cliched lines like the title and never hatches any part of a song. “Barber Shop” is some free-styling over some bass improvising. “Potter’s Field”, the centerpiece, is an 8:40 long ramble on and on story that I can’t follow because, instead of having music backing, it has mostly what sounds like sound effects from a 50s-era comic book movie. All sudden violin swooshes that disappear and BRAAAAAPPPP!!!ing horns. Gah it’s awful awful awful.
And that’s over half the album! Of what’s left, my favourite song is a mixture of “Auld Lang Syne” and a melody I’d like much more years later when it’s called “In the Neighbourhood.” Hey, Tom, I like SONGS, not blaring meh and cheeseball worldplay. Plus he looks like Mark McGrath staring at me on the album cover. This album makes me frustrated and sad, and the title track communicates nothing but its title. So get outta here.



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