Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
Absorbing a 56-song, three-disc collection from Tom Waits is no easy task, but it's certainly enjoyable when there's this much worthwhile material to relish. More than half of the material is new work recorded with wife and longtime collaborator Kathleen Brennan; the remaining tracks include previously unreleased and rare material, much of which was either "buried underneath the house" (as Waits asserts in the liner notes), or had been created in the context of one of his many cinematic endeavors. Thematically divided into the Waits holy trinity of hedonism, heartbreak, and rebellion, each disc tackles those subjects with all the haunting wisdom and otherworldly ambience that makes Waits such an enduring, mesmerizing storyteller.
The first disc, Brawlers, jumps into the fray with an emphasis on dusty juke-joint jams like the roadhouse rumble of "Fish in the Jailhouse" and the threatening, haggard swagger of "Puttin' on the Dog." Bawlers brings his reflective (and often resigned) side into sweet relief, trolling his catalog for misty-eyed ruminations on lonely hearts ("Goodnight Irene"), dangerous seductions ("Little Drop of Poison," from The End of Violence soundtrack), and waning passions ("It's Over"). Bastards closes the collection out with a focus on what is arguably Waits's strongest skill—character sketches of forgotten folks living stubbornly on the margins of life. From terrifying instrumental dirges like "Redrum" to colorfully disturbing recitations of Charles Bukowski poems ("Nirvana") and unsettling bedtime stories (a cover of Daniel Johnston's "King Kong"), he lays down a timeless soundtrack that is both a nightmarish gaze at unvarnished subject matter and utterly moving in its humane execution. If you've ever doubted that Waits should be canonized as a national treasure, this collection will swiftly change your mind. HANNAH LEVIN
Cerrone by Bob Sinclar
The next time you're digging through the crates with your record-geek friends, try name-dropping Jean-Marc Cerrone. It'll make you look cool and knowledgeable. Like his contemporary Giorgio Moroder, Cerrone spent the late 1970s producing multiplatinum singles like "Love in C Minor" and "Supernature," genre-bending productions that transcended disco's lightweight reputation and turned the dance floor into a lab for innovation—an approach the first wave of house and techno producers would later take to heart. Your mom probably knows who Moroder is, but Cerrone isn't much revered for his influence—except among heavy record collectors, and perhaps the French.
Released in Europe four years ago and now reissued for America, Cerrone by Bob Sinclar is a love letter to the man's back catalog from Christophe le Friant, a very busy Parisian with a hand in many of France's best dance exports, from the Mighty Bop to the excellent Africanism series. Combining full-length originals, gentle reedits and some of the more blatant Cerrone-sampling house cuts, this compilation even-handedly demonstrates that most of the interesting things that dance producers are doing today were already done—and quite well—30 years ago. (Not to say that dance music is bereft of ideas—but when they steal, they steal quality.) Collectors and completists will turn to the label's raft of Cerrone reissues, which are valued as much for their music as for their wacky cover art, but this compilation could very well turn casual listeners into disco nerds in training. MATT CORWINE
TRIUMPH OF LETHARGY SKINNED ALIVE TO DEATH
Spencer Moody was the drunken sea captain aboard the SS Murder City Devils, singing boisterous chanteys, barking orders, and occasionally slipping into rummy balladry. But from the first mournful riff of Dead Rhythm (the new record by his post-MCD project Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death) it's clear that Moody has wrecked ship on an inhospitable island and that the rum has run out. As Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death, Moody, along with Corey Brewer and fellow former-Devil Dann Gallucci, have nothing but time to contemplate their mistakes and misfortune, salvaging scraps of sound and sending hopeless messages in bottles out to sea.
Dead Rhythm is full of spare songs and desolate, lo-fi soundscapes. "Paris" couples lyrics full of bitter memories and unanswered love with Brewer's spare, haunting guitar work. On "Pigeon Heart," Moody laments, "I'm a bad captain I know/But the sooner we fail, boys, the sooner we can go home" over fluttering guitar and rhythmic white noise. "Bump on the Nightstand" surrounds the guitars with clipped tones and howls, leading into the off-kilter piano and gurgling, distorted synths of "Beep." "Thug Mugs Baby" gradually pushes the guitars into the red as Moody tells another sad tale of "dreams left behind in casual tones." "Pear Brandy" scornfully recalls a "little room on Belmont Avenue" over barely audible loops and notes.
Triumph of Lethargy may express the same bleak emotions on song after song, but they do so with enough sonic inventiveness to keep Moody's eloquent sad-bastard tales intriguing over the course of the whole album. ERIC GRANDY
Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death play the Sunset Thurs Nov 16, 9 pm, $10, 21+.