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Blood Money uses the same template and players as Alice (released at the same time) and first saw life as an opera production by Robert Wilson. It's Waits's treatment of Georg Buchner's 1837 socio-political play, Woyzek which premiered in 2000 in Copenhagen. It's a dark morality play performed in a style where a barker from a medicine show is mysteriously transported to the Weimar Republic via Tin Pan Alley. Disturbing and delirious when it's not romantic and hilarious, the songs have a much more direct emotional appeal than the surrealistic Alice.
Tom Waits long ago transcended the ability to objectively judge his work utilizingany of the critical criteria that can be used to compare and contrast similarlytoned artists and material. Waits has become so singular in his output thatit seems he can really only be measured against his own previous accomplishments.With the dual release of Blood Money and Alice, Waits stacks upagainst himself effortlessly.
The two pieces are equal but distinct halves of a unique whole. Aliceis the decade-old avant garde opera that Waits and wife Kathleen Brennan wrotefor the German Thalia Theater and director Robert Wilson, while Blood Moneyis based on songs that supported Wilson’s avant garde production of GeorgBucher’s play “Woyzeck” in Denmark two years ago. Although nearlyten years separates the actual creation of the two bodies of work, the materialon both is familiar territory for Waits in his post-Bone Machine mode—lotsof ethnic and vintage instrumentation and songs tailored to match the atmospherescreated by them.
Waits has always been comfortable in the dark areas of the human psyche, andboth Alice and Blood Money fit that bill. Alice is basedon Lewis Carroll’s alleged obsession with the girl who inspired his Alicein Wonderland stories, while Blood Money is founded on an 1837 storyconcerning a German soldier who is medically tortured into madness and murder.Against these bleak backdrops, Waits presents some of his most vivid and poignantsongs (here all co-written with Brennan), particularly the Teutonic march of“God’s Away on Business” and the gritty romance of “ConeyIsland Baby” from Blood Money, and the heartbreaking “Flower’sGrave” on Alice.
Using the same approach as 1999’s brilliant Mule Variations (andthe 20 years before it), Waits has no interest in garnering new fans at thisstage in his career. He is content to pursue the projects that he finds fascinatingand to translate them to his personal satisfaction. Listener acceptance is anice but unnecessary option.