Step Right Up: Songs of Tom Waits – Review

Step Right Up

Songs of Tom Waits (Manifesto)
by Chris Adams

There’s an old saying that goes something like “give people a mask, and they will completely reveal themselves.” Such is the case with this tribute album, which proves little more than that you can’t hide your mediocrity and lack of purpose behind a good Tom Waits song. Without Waits’ grizzled vocals and “I’m down-and-out-of-cigarettes-drunk-in-a-Chinese-tattoo-parlor” persona, most of these songs end up sounding like anything else by the bands performing them. The Violent Femmes‘ “Step Right Up” is just as hideously annoying as any recent Violent Femmes; Drugstore‘s “Old Shoes” sounds like Drugstore’s standard sub-Mary-Chain fuzz; and Pete Shelley‘s “Better Off Without a Wife” is just a tired Buzzcocks re-tread. The essence of Waits doesn’t really rear its bleary, hung-over head. Things brighten up a little bit with former Gun Clubber Jefferey Lee Pierce‘s rap version of “Pasties and a G-String,” but it’s not enough to save this album from it’s inevitable direct-to-bargain-bin destiny. Cut straight (no chaser) to the original albums and appreciate the great man’s bizarre genius undiluted.

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