The lyrics might have been lifted straight from newspaper reports it begins, 'Young Abdel Madi Shabneh was only 18 years old' and goes on to namecheck Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas, Ariel Sharon, Henry Kissinger and George Bush ; the simple, repetitive drum and guitar backing recalls the rhythms of traditional Jewish tunes, and the result is one of those rare songs that roots you to the spot, makes your scalp prickle and produces an unearthly shiver in a warm room, which may well be the mark of great art.
Waits once described the efficacy of political songs as 'like throwing peanuts at a gorilla', but this one is like hurling a rock into its face. The second disc, 'Bawlers', is a casserole of country ballads, waltzes, spirituals and bar-room classics to rip your heart right out, including 'Goodnight, Irene' and a dirty, gritty version of 'The Long Way Home', reclaimed from Norah Jones's pleasant, sugary cover which made it sound as if she were apologising for her train being slightly delayed.
But the real fun is on the third disc, 'Bastards', which mixes up poems by Bukowski and Kerouac, a nature documentary detailing the homicidal tendencies of insects analogy implied , a monologue, 'The Pontiac', in which an all-American father reminisces to his son about all the cars he ever owned, and finishes up with a truly bad joke that can't help but make you groan and smile just because of the relish with which he tells it.
Orphans is once again co-produced with Kathleen Brennan, his wife and collaborator. Little Drop Of Poison Shiny Things World Keeps Turning Tell It To Me Never Let Go Fannin Street Little Man It's Over If I Have To Go Goodnight Irene The Fall Of Troy Down There By The Train Danny Says Jayne's Blue Wish Young At Heart What Keeps Mankind Alive Children's Story Heigh Ho Army Ants Three discs!
This demands some ground rules, people, and here they are: Sublime does not rank box set treatment. Tom Waits ranks box set treatment.
There are almost literally no words left to throw at Waits, other than to say the three-disc, track Orphans is magnificence in creative packaging, one of his most skillful blends of beauty and horror ever, only one with the pleasant effect of being three times as long as usual.
For fans, at this point, writing appropriately gushy things about Waits is just piling on.