Off Beat

Posted on October 31, 2006 

Off Beat

For years, he was the booze-soaked bard of the barstool, the keeper of ‘a bad liver and a broken heart’. But Tom Waits was saved by his wife, hasn’t had a drink for more than a decade and, at 56, is making the music of his life. Interview by Sean O’Hagan

Orphans is a big, sprawling map of disintegration, a triple album containing 54 songs, 30 of which are brand new, while the rest have been gathered up from various one-off projects, film soundtracks and stage plays. His wife, Kathleen, once said there were two types of Tom Waits songs, ‘the grim reapers and the grand weepers’, but Orphans suggest there are at least three. ‘Brawlers’ is made up of blues stomps and raw rockers; ‘Bawlers’ is full of those beautiful, broken-down ballads of his that always sound oddly familiar, and ‘Bastards’ is a series of fits and starts, noisy outbursts that range from the cantankerous to the unhinged.

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