Like many in the music media, we've spent the last few weeks puzzling over a string of curious press releases from Tom Waits' people — pictures of Waits menaced by a shark or wearing an eye patch, emblazoned only with the words "AUGUST 7." They looked funny, odd, portentous, utterly Waitsian. Was it a long-awaited tour announcement? A speedy follow-up or companion piece to last year's terrific Bad As Me? Some sort of crazy multimedia stunt allowing fans to burrow into Waits' mysterious and inscrutable brain? The possibilities dazzled.
When the big reveal finally hit this morning, I immediately moaned to Bob Boilen, "A video?" For a song we've already heard? Yep: A four-minute video for "Hell Broke Luce," the bracing, stomping, grunt's-eye view of war that so stood out on Bad As Me last year. A tour or new album would be terrific, sure, but that video — conceived and directed by Matt Mahurin — is pretty damn remarkable in its own right.
LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This video contains profanity.
The images in the press releases pop up along the way, along with those of a soldier pulling his house, a severed arm holding a ballot, and makeshift graves. Waits' dim view of war and those who wage it is anything but softened here, and Mahurin does a brilliant job of punctuating the singer's guttural jabs with harsh-but-artful visuals.
Here's a statement from Waits himself — guess he'd heard the rumors about a tour, too:
"As most of you guessed, it's a tour... a tour de force!
"Matt Mahurin has created an apocalyptic war dream to accompany the song 'Hell Broke Luce.' Kathleen [Brennan] and I envisioned it as an enlightened drill sergeant yelling the hard truths of war to a brand new batch of recruits. The video grew from the gnawing image of a soldier pulling his home, through a battlefield, at the end of a rope.
"I think you will agree, it's uplifting and fun."