Tom Waits released two albums on the same day in 2002, both soundtracks for plays. Alice was written in the early 1990s, for a play about Lewis Carroll, but wasn’t recorded until ten years later. Tom Waits 21st century output is a step down from his wonderful work in the 1980s and 1990s; after a wonderfully vital second career of fairground music and oompah pahs, his albums start to sound tired, and it doesn’t help that his voice has become more worn and even gruffer. But they’re still worthwhile – in his fifties, Waits continued to make strong music. Of the two albums Waits released on 7 May 2002, Alice is the more subdued, with lots of wistful, tender tracks.
It’s the wistful title track that’s the highlight of Alice for me; it’s gentle and evocative (“And the skates on the pond/They spell Alice”). If you’re a fan of Waits’ balladry, there’s plenty to love, like the odd romantic pairing of ‘Fish And Bird’ and the delicacy of ‘Flowers Grave’. Most of Alice is gentle fare, but there is one track of spluttering vocals and wild percussion in ‘Kommienezuspadt’.
Alice is another strong release from Tom Waits – even though I feel like I have enough Waits’ albums in my life when I get to this point in his discography, he kept making worthwhile music.