Bone Machine

Bone Machine

by Tom Waits


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Perhaps Tom Waits' most cohesive album, Bone Machine is a morbid, sinister nightmare, one that applied the quirks of his experimental '80s classics to stunningly evocative -- and often harrowing -- effect. In keeping with the title's grotesque image of the human body, Bone Machine is obsessed with decay and mortality, the ease with which earthly existence can be destroyed. The arrangements are accordingly stripped of all excess flesh; the very few, often non-traditional instruments float in distinct separation over the clanking junkyard percussion that dominates the record. It's a chilling, primal sound made all the more otherworldly (or, perhaps, underworldly) by Waits' raspy falsetto and often-distorted roars and growls. Matching that evocative power is Waits' songwriting, which is arguably the most consistently focused it's ever been. Rich in strange and extraordinarily vivid imagery, many of Waits' tales and musings are spun against an imposing backdrop of apocalyptic natural fury, underlining the insignificance of his subjects and their universally impending doom. Death is seen as freedom for the spirit, an escape from the dread and suffering of life in this world -- which he paints as hellishly bleak, full of murder, suicide, and corruption. The chugging, oddly bouncy beats of the more uptempo numbers make them even more disturbing -- there's a detached nonchalance beneath the horrific visions. Even the narrator of the catchy, playful "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" seems hopeless in this context, but that song paves the way for the closer "That Feel," an ode to the endurance of the human soul (with ultimate survivor Keith Richards on harmony vocals). The more upbeat ending hardly dispels the cloud of doom hanging over the rest of Bone Machine, but it does give the listener a gentler escape from that terrifying sonic world. All of it adds up to Waits' most affecting and powerful recording, even if it isn't his most accessible.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/08/1992
Label: Island
UPC: 0731451258022
catalogNumber: 512580

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tom Waits   Primary Artist,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Keyboards,Stick,Vocals,chamberlain
Ralph Carney   Bass Clarinet,Alto Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Larry Taylor   Bass
Brain   Drums
Kathleen Brennan   Percussion,Stick
Claypool   Bass,Electric Bass
Joe Gore   Guitar
David Hidalgo   Violin,Accordion
Joe Marquez   Banjo,Percussion,Stick
Keith Richards   Guitar,Vocals
Waddy Wachtel   Guitar
David Phillips   Steel Guitar

Technical Credits

Tom Waits   Producer
Tchad Blake   Engineer
Joe Blaney   Engineer
Kathleen Brennan   Producer
Biff Dawes   Engineer
Bill Dawes   Engineer
Joe Marquez   Producer,Engineer

Customer Reviews

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Bone Machine 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Can't say enought good things about Bone Machine. Incredibly evocative and poetic, it's one of Tom Waits' most cohesive albums. So impressive, both lyrically and musically. The tone is dark and morbid (just take a gander at the song titles) but it covers very universal themes. There is a lot of severe, industrial-sounding stuff like Earth Died Screaming, Such a Scream, and In the Colosseum, but also very melodic, country-ish tunes like A Little Rain and Whistle Down the Wind. Overall this is fascinating, primal, earthy, challenging music. Bone Machine is a shining example of why Tom Waits is often regarded as one of music's finest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is perhaps my favorite album ever, by anyone. Some say it's less accessible than other Tom Waits, but I'm not so sure. Coming from the background of an alt-rock fan, I was more immediately attracted to stuff like this than to Waits' early work. There are a number of raucous percussion-driven tracks here, but also a few moving ballads. Some people will like the ballads if not for the vocals, but I think Waits' delivery keeps them from being overly sentimental. I'm not sure if I can put together all of the lyrics, but there are a lot of great lines. The last verse of A Little Rain kills me ("She was 15 years old...").
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