Anti - 2004 - 72 minutes

Reading the press release that accompanies Waits' new album makes you wish he would find the time - and a suitably rusty typewriter - for a book. In his own words 'Real Gone' is "a homogenous concoction of mood elevators, mind liberators and downers, an alchemical universe of rattling chains, oscillating rhythms and nine-pound hammers". No review can compete with that, and describing Waits and his sound long ago became the written equivalent of an old record player getting stuck on the best part of a 78.

Here we find him without a piano for the first time, back with guitarist Marc Ribot for their first full album together since 'Rain Dogs', getting political on tracks like 'Hoist That Rag' and 'Day After Tomorrow' and deciding that his voice works better than most drum kits. He's called the stew of styles on offer 'Cubist funk' - and like the album it's one of those things that makes sense the more you keep hearing it.

While no-one else could make a record like this, at 72 minutes 'Real Gone' is also real long and Waits could've trimmed some fat and still kept the grizzle. That he hasn't guarantees his fans will lose their voices even more singing along, but he's unlikely to win many new ones.

Having conquered the outer limits long ago, would making an album as mellow and simple as his debut 'Closing Time' be the most daring move now open to Waits?

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Top of the Hill - Hoist That Rag - Sins of My Father - Shake It - Don't Go Into That Barn - How's It Gonna End - Metropolitan Glide - Dead and Lovely - Circus - Trampled Rose - Green Grass - Baby Gonna Leave Me - Clang Boom Steam - Make It Rain - Day After Tomorrow