It’s officially 2017 – the year I’m returning (knock on wood) to the Ironman arena. So I’m beginning the New Year off on the right foot (pun intended) with my 10 minute 28 Day Challenge core workout (click HERE) under the ever-watchful gaze of Coach Tina the Cat, followed by this 60 minute (10.44k) run.
Now this may not seem like a “long” run, and I would agree. It’s not. But seeing as how I haven’t ran in exactly 10 days now thanks to a gimpy right shin, I’m starting off slowly and just seeing how it feels over this 60 minutes of continuous running. Besides, a little fresh air to ring in the New Year also isn’t the worst idea ever. My soundtrack then is something more along the entertaining side of things than it is for motivational purposes, the ‘Real Gone‘ album by Tom Waits.
On ‘Real Gone‘, Waits walks a fraying tightrope. By utterly eliminating one of the cornerstone elements of his sound – keyboards – he has also removed his safety net. With songwriting and production partner Kathleen Brennan, he strips away almost everything conventional from these songs, taking them down to the essences of skeletal rhythms, blasted and guttural blues, razor-cut rural folk music, and the rusty-edge poetry and craft of songwriting itself.
His cast includes guitarists Marc Ribot and Harry Cody, bassist/guitarist Larry Taylor, bassist Les Claypool, and percussionists Brain and Casey Waits (Tom’s son), the latter of whom also doubles on turntables. The album, much like my first few strides, starts off on an awkward note, the confrontational opener, ‘Top of the Hill‘ where Waits uses his growling, grunting vocal atop Ribot’s monotonously funky single-line riff and Casey’s turntables to become a human beatbox offering ridiculously nonsensical lyrics. It’s chunky and weird, but that’s ‘ol Tommy boy. The jewels then shine from the mud immediately after.
The mutated swamp tango of ‘Hoist That Rag‘ has stuttered clangs and quakes for drums, decorated by distorted Latin power chords and riffs from Ribot, along with thundering deep bass from Claypool. On the ten-plus minute ‘Sins of My Father‘, Cody’s spooky banjo walks with Taylor’s low-strung bass and Waits’ shimmering reverbed guitar as he ominously croons, revealing a rigged game of “star-spangled glitter” where “justice wears suspenders and a powdered wig”. It’s part revelation, part ‘East of Eden‘, and part backroom political culture framed by the eve of the apocalypse. It’s hunted, hypnotic, and spooky.
Okay, maybe this album was a rather odd choice as a New Years Day listen.
In stripping away convention, Waits occasionally lets his songs go to extremes with absurd simplicity, such as on ‘Don’t Go into That Barn‘, a musical cousin to his spoken ‘What’s He Building?‘ from ‘Mule Variations‘. But there’s also the downright riotous squall of ‘Shake It‘, which sounds like an insane carny barker jamming with R.L. Burnside, or the riotous raging blues of ‘Baby Gonna Leave Me‘. There are “straight” narratives such as ‘How’s It Gonna End‘, with its slow and brooding beat story line, and the moving murder ballad ‘Dead and Lovely‘, with its drooping, shambolic elegance (because, really, what’s a Tom Waits album without at least one murder ballad?). There’s the spoken word ‘Circus‘, with its wispy spindly frame that features Waits on chamberlain. And ‘Metropolitan Glide’ feels like a hell-bent duet between James Brown and Captain Beefheart‘s Magic Band, followed by the fractured, busted-love, ranting-at-God pain that rips through ‘Make It Rain‘. The tender ‘Green Grass‘ is among Waits’ finest broken love songs; it’s movingly rendered by a character who could have resided in one of William Kennedy’s novels. The set closes with ‘Day After Tomorrow‘, featured on MoveOn.org’s Future Soundtrack for America. It is one of the most insightful and understated antiwar songs to have been written in decades. It contains not a hint of banality or sentiment in its folksy articulation.
‘Real Gone‘ is another provocative moment for Waits, one that has problems, but then, all his records do. That’s why we love him. He’s an imperfect beast and make no excuses and makes no apologies for it.
Huh. Not a bad mantra for a new year of training and working out maybe?
The run itself wasn’t so bad actually and the shin never really flared up to become a problem so I’m taking that as a huge success. In fact, everything felt great for the few kilometers and I was maintaining a comfortable 5:20-5:30min/km pace but then I remembered that this was intended to be an “easy does it” run so I backed off and turned it into 3 x (19 minutes run/1 minute walk) intervals just to ensure I didn’t take myself unnecessarily too deep into the pain cave. Which is good, because after 6-7k my legs remembered, “oh yeah, we haven’t done this in a while” so they appreciated that minute rest. And even with those three rest sections, I still averaged 5:45min/km pace which is good for my first time back in over a week. Hell, that’s a better pace than my past three long runs and I wasn’t even pushing it!
Okay, 2017. Let’s this do this shit!