Waits Gives Dance Lessons

Real Gone has strange beats . . . and you can dance to them

August 25, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Tom Waits has a penchant for tall tales, but the raspy-throated troubadour is not exaggerating when he says of his new album Real Gone, "It's got a lot of energy. I think you can dance to it."

Waits even offers dance lessons in the form of the playful "Metropolitan Glide." "It's an instructional dance number, and when was the last time you heard one of those?" he asks. "It's the name of an old dance that existed around the Twenties. I went, 'Oh, man. I'd like to learn how to do the metropolitan glide.'"

In Real Gone, due October 5th, Waits and songwriting partner/co-producer/wife Kathleen Brennan have indeed created one of their most rambunctious records to date, one that charges out of the chute like a bull on crystal meth with the scratched-up honky-tonk rocker "Top of the Hill."

"The album was recorded and mixed in about two months," says Waits, who credits his cast of musicians -- Larry Taylor on guitar and bass, Mark Ribot (who last appeared with Waits on the 1985 classic Raindogs) on guitar and tres, Brain Manita on drums, Waits' son Casey on percussion and turntables, Les Claypool on bass, and Harry Cody on guitar and banjo -- with the fresh sound. "That's quick, man, for me. Everything on the record is first take."

Waits, who says childhood influences like Harry Belafonte's Streets I've Walked got him hooked on exotic beats, pays homage to the Afro-Cuban scene on "Hoist That Rag," a clanging pop gem that masks some of the album's most political lyrics in an addictive riff. "It's kind of American pirates on the high seas doing what we do best: plunder, with disregard for the feelings and the lives of others," Waits says. "It's the American way."

Among the other standout tracks are the touching ballad "Day After Tomorrow," written from the point of view of a twenty-one-year-old soldier overseas longing to return home, the frenzied rocker "Shake It," and "Circus," a spoken-word daydream set in a funhouse of mirrors.

"I don't know what people are going to think of this record, but it combines a lot of different disciplines and different styles," Waits says, "and I think it's killer, man."

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