I can’t pinpoint precisely when I realized how much Tom Waits has impacted my musical taste, but Mule Variations seems like a good album to spotlight. It had respectable sales, solid reviews, and is full of amazing songs, like so many of his albums. Tom Waits is in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, but he is decidedly outside the mainstream. His music is timeless and exists in its own orbit, but quality generally always finds its audience, and Mr. Waits definitely has his cult followers, folks like me who recognize his quirky genius. There is no-one else like him, nor will there ever be another to fill his void when he finally stops creating his unique visions. Mule Variations, released in 1999, contains one of my very favorite pieces, titled “What’s He Building In There?” not so much a song as a series of observations and questions set against a backdrop of quirky sound effects and ominous noises. The album kicks off with the raucous Big In Japan, backed by Primus, and there are several gorgeous Waits ballads, like Hold On, House Where Nobody Lives, and Take It With Me. This music isn’t for everyone, but so much of my favorite stuff falls outside the lines, the territory of the genius named Tom Waits.
Written By Braddon S. Williams