Furthering his unwavering commitment to the art of noise, Tom Waits creates structure from unlikely grunts and coughed clatter on "Real Gone," minimizing the role of instrumental melodies. Through verses and choruses written with hymeneal collaborator Kathleen Brennan, his guttural growl is alternately pushed to its breaking point ("Hoist That Rag") and reduced to a mournful whimper ("How's It Gonna End"); as a stammering beat box, it churns out rhythmic percussive blasts worthy of a backfiring jalopy or industrial sweatshop.
Leaving dirty streets, Tin Pan Alley and even his piano behind, Waits sputters through fetid swamps and stumbles upon forgotten backwoods enclaves after swerving off unmapped dirt roads. It's a somewhat terrifying place ("Circus"), but this trip finds Waits sharing tales of familiar tortured souls ("Dead and Lovely") and lovers ("Green Grass") with appropriate restraint and vigor -- and without passing judgment.
"Real Gone" was recorded in an old Mississippi schoolhouse and boasts appearances by Primus founder Les Claypool, Shotgun Messiah's Harry Cody (guitar, banjo), as well as Waits' son, Casey.