In 2002, Tom Waits released Blood Money along with Alice. Both albums are based off of plays that were adapted by theater director, Robert Wilson. Blood Money is based off the socio, political play called “Woyzeck”, which was originally written by the German poet, Georg Buchner in 1837. The premise of the play revolves around a true story of a German soldier who is driven to insanity by strange army medical experiments and problems with infidelity, which ultimately drove him to murder his lover. The songs that Waits wrote with his wife, Kathleen Brennan, were for an avant-garde production of “Woyzeck”, which was directed by Robert Wilson. The play was premiered in November 200 at the Betty Nansen Theater in Copenhagen, which won the Danish rendition of the Tony award for “Best Musical”.
The first track, “Misery Is the River of the World”, initiates the album with a dark, gloomy march with the use of sporadic marimba and clarinet. “Everything Goes to Hell” continues with dark themes of humanity through a misanthropic disposition. The song has a gentle groove with the prominent use of baritone sax and bongos. “Coney Island Baby” shifts to a major key, having more of a slow pace with a bar-sound piano. The next track, “All the World Is Green” is arguably one of Waits’ most outstanding pieces. Not only is this the highlight of the album, but it captures a sweet and beautiful side of Waits’ song writing. The use of the somber clarinet behind the marimba is a beautiful contrast and allows the audience to transport to an atmosphere that is smoky and captivating. The lyrics revolve around the longing of a more beautiful life with a loved one. “God’s Away on Business” continues with what the first track introduced of a dark march. “Another Man’s Vine” slows the pace once again with dynamic flow between the piano and brass instruments. “Knife Chase” is an instrumental that seems to run in circles with a feeling of apprehension throughout it. “Lullaby” is one of the mellowest tracks off the album, carrying a mood of sadness. “Starving in the Belly of a Whale” is another fun march with prominent use of the electric guitar. “The Part You Throw Away”, is another highlight from the album with the perfect use of pizzicato from the cello and violin. “Woe” is another slow pace track continuing with the themes of “All the World Is Green”. “Calliope” is another instrumental reminiscent of crooked circus music. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” closes with another circus, festival sound.
This is the third time Tom Waits collaborated with theatre director, Robert Wilson. Tom Waits seemed to have a taste for musical interpretations of theater performances. Although the album does not come with a score, the pieces can be enjoyed and interpreted through its lyrics and instrumental performances. Overall, this is not the strongest of Waits’ albums, yet it gives a different listen for the audience. It could be viewed as a concept album, since the songs follow one particular story.
– Amirata Mahallati