These two simultaneously released discs both began life as Robert
Wilson theatre pieces, and their considerable shortcomings are
nothing new to Waits' career. In fact, they're nothing new to
countless theatre hopefuls who use song to convey character or
advance narrative. Like Elton John/Tim Rice or even Andrew Lloyd
Webber, Waits sacrifices melody to dramaturgy, and the loss is
especially evident on his loose Lewis Carroll adaptation,
Alice. All you can recall after several taxing listens is the
foreboding, smoky gestalt that imparts an air of respectful
grotesquerie to the project. And who but Waits cultists will
penetrate the textures to get to the story underneath, assuming
that's possible? Blood Money works much better as mere music.
Just as on Mule Variations, the standout tracks are the most
tender, particularly "Coney Island Baby" and "Lullaby." But even
there, atmosphere reigns over hooks, rhythmic commitments and a
benevolent relationship with a band. I do like show tunes, I swear. I
just want them to sound like B-Rock & the Bizz's "My Baby Daddy."
"What song is it that you want to hear?!?"
Note: Alice gets a "3" rating, while Blood Money gets a "6."