All Hell Broke Luce

Posted: August 8, 2012 by Dion in Music, Music Review, News
Tags: , , , , , , ,

For over a week now, Tom Waits fans have been waiting with bated breath for the surprise that was to drop on August 7. Starting on July 31st, a picture went up on his site, which was simply:

Speculation over the ‘net was rampant. Was it a tour?! Maybe a newly-recorded album with the celebrities he’d put together to do his two recent late night television appearances on David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon?!

Well, every other day, a new clue was left on his site.

On August 2, this image below was added with the caption: “I breathe better underwater.”

Then yesterday the last clue was dropped on his site, with a caption that read: “Never Bring a Spoon to a Gun Fight,” and the image below had everyone champing at the bit.

Lo and behold, the hype worked, and today everyone finally learned what the glorious surprise would be: A new video has been released for Hell Broke Luce, the stomping march off his latest album, Bad as Me (which the Podwits reviewed here), directed by Santa Cruz-based photographer Matt Mahurin and featuring Keith Richards on guitar and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass. Richards is all over the album as well, even duetting with Waits on the song Last Leaf.

This is the second video released for the album; the song Satisfied, found here, was the first. Last summer, when Amazon.com outed Waits’ secret plan to release a new album in October 2011, Waits retaliated and released a “Listening Party“, which was his response to the disclosure.

A still from Waits’ music video, Hell Broke Luce

Hell Broke Luce is the only cut off the album that has the particular flavor that Waits is known for, the incredibly unique and avant-garde style  that he cultivated in the early-’80s Island Records trilogy—Swordfishtrombones(1983), Rain Dogs(1985), and Frank’s Wild Years (1987)—that took fans, critics and the world by storm. Some critics called Rain Dogs the best album of the 1980s.

Pulling the house in Hell Broke Luce

With 2004’s Real Gone, Waits started to revert to his rhythm and blues roots (which is in no way meant to say he ever really “departed” from that style). Bad As Me, released this past October, is a heavy dose of blues and rockabilly tunes mixed with some slow ballads that only Waits (and his wife and long time collaborator Kathleen Brennan) can write.

Alcatraz graffiti from the 1946 Prison Riot in A Block, Cell 23

Hell Broke Luce is an anti-war song, seeming to be geared specifically to the Middle Eastern conflicts that the United States and other countries are presently involved in. This isn’t a first for the iconic musician, having penned the widely popular anti-war song Day After Tomorrow from 2004’s Real Gone, Road to Peace (which takes a hard and unwavering look at the long running Israeli/Palestinian conflict) from ’06’s Orphans box set, and Canon Song, which was an exclusive for those who bought Orphans on vinyl.

But with this latest song, the lyrics seemed geared straight towards American and coalition soldiers, with lines like: “Humvee mechanic put his Kevlar on wrong; guaranteed to meet up with a suicide bomb” or “Now I’m home, and I’m blind, and I’m broke; what-is-next?!” It is also worth noting this may be the only song in the entire Waits canon that has swearing in it; two f-bombs are dropped, which seem to indicate the frustation he or, more specifically, the soldiers in his song are feeling about an endless war.

The title of the song has its origins in the notorious prison riot that occurred at Alcatraz on May 2-4, 1946, in which two guards and five inmates were ultimately killed. During the riot one of the prisoners carved “Hell Broke Luce” into a cement cell wall in block A, cell 23, spelling it as it sounds. Waits evidently saw the graffiti on a tour and the rest is history.

I think it is an extremely imaginative video, and fits right in with the catalog of music videos he’s done over his career, which always seem to be right out of the creative-right-field of thought; it kind of reminds me of the imagery you’d see in Pink Floyd’s old videos and films. He and Mahurin have worked together before on the music videos for his songs Hold On and What’s He Building in There?

Parachuting into the war from “Hell Broke Luce

According to his press release, Waits told NPR:

Matt Mahurin has created an apocalyptic war dream to accompany the song ‘Hell Broke Luce’. Kathleen 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.

Have a look and see for yourself.

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