Friday, May 2, 2008

Number 5 Mule Variations

Number 5 Mule Variations
Artist: Tom Waits (Kathleen Brennan)
Released: April 20th, 1999

Track Listing

Big in Japan
Low Side of the Road
Hold On
Get Behind The Mule
House Where Nobody Lives
Cold Water
What's He Building
Black Market Baby
Eyeball Kid
Picture In a Frame
Chocolate Jesus
Georgia Lee
Filipino Box Spring Hog
Take It With Me
Come On Up To The House

I have all of life's treasures and they're fine and they're good
But they remind me houses are just made of wood
What makes a house grand it ain't the roof or the doors
If there is love in a house it's a palace for sure
Without love it ain't nothing but a house where nobody lives

In all my music nerdery I am in the "living room" of the tiny Dolphin trailer my Fiancée and I were living in rent-free. We're in the middle of preparing for our wedding, which means I am saying yes a lot and Tracy is taking care of a million things a minute. My most important decision, as I figured it, was what song to play for our first dance. I made a decision and nervously played it for her. As it played and we danced she began crying, she loved it, of course she did. The song was Picture in a Frame from Mule Variations. Thank you Tom Waits.

Mule Variations is BIG, 16 songs large, the most songs on an album in my list. In the reviews I've read on line about this album they argue that it lacks in cohesiveness, that it is "a collection of moments" and that it is only rehashing work from Swordfish Trombones, Black Rider, and Bone Machine. The following is the conclusion of The Rolling Stone Review.

"Through his film roles in the Eighties and Nineties and the simultaneous rise of an alternative culture that lionizes him, Waits has become the apotheosis of the American eccentric. We don't demand much from these figures, other than that they spill out their visions in chunks of an ongoing discourse; Mule Variations is just the latest installment of that discourse, and one wonders when Waits, who's not lacking for bold, dislocating ideas, might treat himself to a new start."

Wimps, wimps that missed it. They weren't tough enough to deal with the scope, Tom Waits took the sound that he had developed and laid out a work so massive that it is hard to believe it works together, hard to accept landscapes as wide open as Hold On, Cold Water, Georgia Lee, Pony, and Come On Up To The House all on the same album but there they are and work they do. Chunk of discourse my ass, this is an album to live by, a philosophy text, a world view, an essential BIG thing. Mule Variations is the culmination of the sound he had developed, perfected and delivered on a humongous scale.

Mule Variations, what a title.

"You've got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow"

Yeah Mr. Waits that's about right, we wake up and we get behind it and we do what we do. These songs are variations on gettin' behind that mule. Sometimes it is so damn hopeful and inspiring it will shake your being.

By a 99 cent store she closed her eyes and started swaying.
But it's so hard to dance that way when it's cold and there's no music.

Sometimes it is so painful it will bring you to your knees.

And lonesome was the place where Georgia was foundShe's too young to be out on the street

Sometimes it is so mysterious you start to obsess.

I heard he has an ex-wife in some place called Mayors Income, TennesseeAnd he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia

Sometimes it can seem so lonely you need help.

There's no light in the tunnel, no irons in the fireCome on up to the houseAnd you're singin' lead soprano in a junkman's choirYou gotta' come on up to the house

Sometimes it is so funny you bust your gut.

When the weather gets roughAnd it's whiskey in the shadeIt's best to wrap your savior up in cellophaneHe flows like the big muddy but that's okPour him over ice cream for a nice parfait

Sometimes it is so strange all you can do is observe.

Well he was born with out a body, not even a browI made the kid a promise, I made the kid a vowHe's not conventionally handsome, he'll never be tallHe said "all you got to do is book me into Carnegie Hall"

You got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow. You got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow. You got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow. This album is the kit and the caboodle, the mule, the plow, the earth and the sky. I'm married now and my wife is a Tom Waits nut.

Sometimes it is so sweet.

Sun come up it was blue and gold. Ever since I put your picture in a frame

My oldest brother Eric has been banging out some serious artwork over the last three years. Primarily they are from the landscapes that surround his life. They're big and they seem to me to have the perspective of being behind that plow. He also was the first one to mention Tom Waits to me. When I recently viewed his paintings together in a show it was that same BIG feeling. Keep it up Eric, keep it up all of you.

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