Bone Machine album cover
Bone Machine

Tom Waits

Island Records

Waits’ 1992 album is lyrically one of his darkest; track titles include “The Earth Died Screaming,” “Dirt In The Ground” (“we’re all gonna be…”), and “Murder In The Red Barn.” He’s tackling everything from environmental catastrophe to political corruption to senseless human cruelty, and the music is a blend of anarchic clatter and mournful ballads. When the stakes are narrowed to the intimacy of single combat, he proves that his daggers are as sharp as Elvis Costello’s or Bob Dylan’s ever were (“Who Are You”), but there’s also an optimism here, whether it’s the earnest faith of “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” the braggadocio of “Goin’ Out West,” told from the POV of a guy who’s sure he’s gonna be a movie star, or the closing “That Feel,” with a guest appearance from longtime Waits pal Keith Richards. It’s a genuine toss-up whether this or Rain Dogs is Waits’ masterpiece; your answer will probably depend on how black your mood is on any given day.

Phil Freeman

Who also suggested

If you select your preferred streamer here, we will save your preference and link to that platform if possible. This can always be changed in the Settings menu.

Apple Music

If you’d like to prioritize Bandcamp if available, tap the Bandcamp logo.

Since some albums are only available on one service, you’ll still see logos for other services if the album is only available on that service.