Calamari (especially the tentacles) are one of those divisive food stuffs. Some people find the tentacles (and in some cases squid in general) gross and disconcerting. To be fair, I can’t imagine there are too many people who didn’t have at least a brief moment of hesitation the first time they tried tentacles. But those of us who are familiar with the whole squid, the tentacles can be one of the tastiest bites, and we know that calamari is simply delicious. For that reason, how you feel about the Braised Squid with Chickpeas recipe Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen today will have everything to do with how you feel about squid as an ingredient. The recipe is a fantastic, savory, intensely flavored stew of chorizo, chickpeas, and little calamari tentacles reaching out from the depths begging to be devoured. For that reason, I’ve decided to pair this recipe with a quirky album, one that some people find unsettling and maybe even down right weird at first, but which people in the “know” cherish: Tom Waits’ Real Gone.
Tom Waits’ may have recorded albums that are better than Real Gone – but for me, he has never recorded an album that sounds more distinctly Tom Waits-esque. It’s a sonic orgy of Waits’ gravely vocal tics; his surreal, cinematic, noir-styled lyrics; and ominous mamba and tango inspired melodies ungallantly blended with every manner of static, clatter and percussion Waits could scrape together. It’s intentionally disconcerting from the start with a melody stitched together from the unorthodox use of roughly-hewn beat boxing, bruised record scratching and assorted abrasive squawks and toots on opener “Top of the Hill.” On the following cut, “Hoist That Rag,” Waits’ gritty, pirate-like bark is nearly upstaged by the warbled, Cubano guitar solo that burrows itself deep into the track’s core. Waits has never been the type of performer to shy away from unconventional choices in track arrangement, a fact demonstrated by the placement of the ten and a half minute long groove “Sins of the Father” in the album’s three spot. In typical Tom Waits’ fashion, when he isn’t instrumentally unconventional and lyrically cryptic, he’s darkly ominous in a way that is almost Disney-esque in it’s foreboding and melancholy, as he is on the brooding ballad “Dead and Lovely” or the lonely and weeping “Day After Tomorrow.” The latter is the album’s most straight-forward tune, which potentially explains why it feels tucked away at the album’s end, as if Waits’ was almost embarrassed to release a song so clear and clean. And like nearly any Tom Waits’ album it is flooded with moments of brilliance which are occasionally sullied by sour notes. With that said, if this album were more perfect, it wouldn’t do Waits’ genius justice which I tend to think is best demonstrated by his ability to turn rough imperfection into moments of irresistible sonic gold.
Tom Waits – Hoist That Rag