Like Frank’s Wild Years, Bone Machine offers a different spin on the sound that Waits had developed on Swordfishtrombones. This time, the arrangements are very simple; most of these songs only have two or three instrumental tracks on them, often a guitar, a bass, and rough percussion. The simple sound lends itself both to propulsive rockers like ‘Goin’ Out West’ and tear jerkers like ‘Whistle Down The Road’, and Bone Machine is another very solid entry into Waits’ strong catalogue of the 1980s and 1990s.
‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’ was later covered by The Ramones, and its carried by Waits’ loud, primitive guitar. ‘Goin’ Out West’ is another primitive blues rocker, that’s thrilling when the rhythm section hits, while other rockers like ‘In The Colosseum’ and ‘Such A Scream’ are stripped back to their bare essences, almost ten years before The White Stripes used the same approach. The context of being surrounded by nasty rockers makes the pretty piano ballads sound even prettier, and songs like ‘A Little Rain’ and ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ jump out among the garage rock.
Twenty years into his recording career, Waits was on a roll at this point, and Bone Machine is a very strong entry in a stellar discography.