Another April ’09 blog post.

Once again, apologies for my blog tardiness. Thankfully the verbal diarrhea by way of keyboard has been corked by the Imodium of a heavy after hours workload.

Passing the time revisiting ‘Rain Dogs’, ‘Swordfishtrombones’ and ‘Bone Machine’ by RZA-fan Mr Thomas Waits, who, as much of a middle-class hobo act it might be, makes the don’t-give-a-fuck look work a treat, having honed the anti-fashion ensembles since day one – and whereas with any multi, even single decade career span, I can find at least a couple of sartorial missteps, I can’t find any for Tom.

Not a solitary pair of flared strides. Even the attempt to make him look daft in 1983’s ‘Rumble Fish’ backfires, and affords that tight patterned (thank god it’s filmed in artful black and white) an undeserved level of cool. It’s beautifully jarring to let the iPod play the delayed release of the ‘One From The Heart’ immediately prior to the 1983 follow-up (‘Swordfishtrombones’) that led him to relocate to Chris Blackwell’s Island stable – from gravelly baritone sentiment to all-out oddball, it’s a startling juxtaposition.

Still distinctly Tom, but seemingly something totally new, for a long, long time, I naively assumed the artist had been held-back from his true vision, forced by the ‘man’ into the piano man routine, and dropped something utterly original that had been laying dormant for a while.

From the accounts in Barney Hoskins’ ‘Lowside Of The Road’ and David Smay’s 33 1/3 dissertation (we’re still starved of an authorised tome, or autobiography – like Spielberg’s DVD commentary track refusal, I can see how the enigma could be dissolved a tad by either project), influences came from all over the shop – bearing in mind that there are many moments of clarity amid the lunacy, plus some sludgy delta blues moments, but Harry Partch was a core inspiration.

A onetime hobo, who created the constantly-altered piece ‘Barstow’ based on hitchikers’ graffiti he’d spotted by a highway, Partch was a musical theorist, composer, inventor and all-round maverick, creating all-new musical instruments and methods on intonation. Instruments included the The Diamond Marimba, The Quadrangularis Reversum, Marimba Eroica, Mazda Marimba, The Cloud Chamber Bowls, The Gourd Tree, Cone Gongs, The Zymo-Xyl and The Harmonic Canons. All good name for any future musical group endeavour you’re planning out there. Whether you actually take an interest in experimental music, as with fellow misunderstood geniuses like Buckminster Fuller, you’ve got to give a nod to any staunch individualist. Especially when Harry dropped inspirational soundbites like this –

“The creative man will rise above, he will transcend the mutilations. for every deeply sincere offering there is a corresponding deep and sincere hunger. Not the European chauvinism of New York, nor the mindless caterwauling of Hollywood recording studios, nor the “we-sell-music-by- the-yard,” mood-music people, can suppress either the sincere offering or the sincere hunger. True creativity is present. It is here, because man is here, in his true, deep, self. Unmutilated.”

Waits took elements that tethered these seemingly other-wordly sounds with the assistance of fellow experimenter Hal Willner – the bass marimba is present, and has cropped up time and time again in his work. The Partch documentary below is some disorientating greatness too, check here for more information. And there’s always time for a live performance of ‘In The Neighborhood’. Not a Waits fan? Fuck off then.


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