Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (Anti-)
Welcome to Tom Waits' garage sale! This 3-CD collection of covers, rarities, new and old songs is a big lot to sort through, but the choice finds are worth it. Orphans is more of Waits' strange fruit: murderers and madmen, petty criminals and wicked women, junk cars and empty bars. The "Brawlers" disc represents Waits' more contemporary recordings: "2:19" echoes Real Gone and "Bottom of the World" waltzes the Pogues' Matilda. "Bawlers," meanwhile, revisits Waits' jazzy side circa Heart of Saturday Night, "Little Man," "It's Over," and his cover of "Goodnight Irene" perfectly charming in a three-day bender sort of way. These are the sweethearts, the last calls, the boozy reflections Waits is so good at recalling. "Bastards" shows the most promise for where Waits could be headed. In a word, it's twisted. "Army Ants" sounds like an educational film slowed down and dosed with peyote. The electronic warble of "First Kiss" dulls before the electric "Dog Door" pulls down an actual rocker. "The Pontiac," Waits' description of old cars to a small child is classic, as is his cover of Daniel Johnston's "King Kong." It's a seamless lot, with what probably started out as an odds-and-ends toss-out growing into a bona fide gem of a collection. After 30 years, Waits keeps getting weirder and weirder while still aging gracefully.