We're all gonna be the same place when we die.
Your spirit don't leave knowing your face or your name.
The wind through your bones is all that remains.
Recorded in the cellar of a music studio (described by Waits as "just a cement floor and a hot water heater" and chosen because he liked the echo there), the album showcases a Darker and Edgier sound than his previous work. It was Waits's first studio album since Franks Wild Years (1987) and is best recognized for the tracks "Earth Died Screaming," "Goin' Out West," and "I Don't Wanna Grow Up."
- "Earth Died Screaming" (3:39)
- "Dirt in the Ground" (4:08)
- "Such a Scream" (2:07)
- "All Stripped Down" (3:04)
- "Who Are You" (3:58)
- "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me" (1:51)
- "Jesus Gonna Be Here" (3:21)
- "A Little Rain (For Clyde)" (2:58)
- "In the Colosseum" (4:50)
- "Goin' Out West" (3:19)
- "Murder in the Red Barn" (4:29)
- "Black Wings" (4:37)
- "Whistle Down the Wind (For Tom Jans)" (4:36)
- "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (2:31)
- "Let Me Get Up on It" (0:55)
- "That Feel" (3:11)
The Earth Died Screaming While I Lay Troping:
- Admiring the Abomination: "Black Wings":Some say they fear him;
Others admire him.
- All Are Equal in Death: "Dirt in the Ground":Take a king or a beggar
And the answer they'll give
Is we're all gonna be ... just dirt in the ground
- Alliterative Title: "Whistle Down the Wind."
- Alternative Rock: And how alternative it is.
- Angels in Overcoats: The song "Black Wings" invokes this trope. The main character of the song is a very dangerous, Ambiguously Evil, Ambiguously Human entity on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Possibly a Fallen Angel, possibly The Angel Of Death, possibly just a very dangerous human being.Well he once killed a man with a guitar string
He's been seen at the table with kings
He once saved a baby from drowning
There are those that say beneath his coat there are wings
- As the Good Book Says...:
- "Dirt in the Ground" alludes to story of Cain and Abel.
- "Who Are You" asks:How do your pistol and your Bible
And your sleeping pills go?
- "Murder in the Red Barn" quotes the Ten Commandments:Now thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house
Or covet thy neighbor's wife
- "Black Wings," ironically:Take an eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth
Just like they say in the Bible
- Awesome Mccoolname: In "Goin' Out West", he considers changing his name to Hannibal or "maybe just Rex."
- Badass Boast: "Goin' Out West" is one long boast by a character assured of his good looks and badassery, specifically saying he knows karate and voodoo and can handle himself in a high speed chase. He's got the scars and chest hair to prove it.
- Barred from the Afterlife:
- "Earth Died Screaming":Well hell doesn't want you
And heaven is full
- Echoed in the next track, "Dirt in the Ground":Hell's boiling over, and heaven is full
- "Earth Died Screaming":
- Call-Back: The fifteen-year-old girl who "[had] never seen the ocean" in "A Little Rain" may well be the girl addressed by the secondary interpretation of "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me." If not, this is merely a Continuity Nod.
- Careful with That Axe: "Such a Scream" living up to its name.
- Carpet of Virility: "Goin' Out West":I've got hair on my chest
I look good without a shirt
- Caught Up in the Rapture:
- "All Stripped Down" uses the Rapture as a metonym for death.And all the sinners know what I'm talking about
All stripped down, all stripped down
When all the creatures of the world are gonna line up at the gate
All stripped down, all stripped down
And you better be on time, and you better not be late
All stripped, all stripped down
- The singer of "Jesus Gonna Be Here" is very much this.Well I'm just gonna wait here
I don't have to shout
I have no reason and
I have no doubt
I'm gonna get myself unfurled
From this mortal coiled up world
Because Jesus gonna be here
Be here soon
- "All Stripped Down" uses the Rapture as a metonym for death.
- Come to Gawk: "In the Colosseum":And the madness of the crowd
Is an epileptic fit
- Concept Album: Virtually every song on the album features death as a theme or explores it directly.
- Counting to Three: Waits does this in "Such a Scream."
- Dark World: It could be a twisted, darkly reflected version of our world that this album takes place in . . . or it could just be ours.
- Darker and Edgier: The themes and musical arrangements are far darker even than Waits's previous output. Case in point: the first track is about the apocalypse.
- Deadly Euphemism:So I will take the Marley Bone Coach
And be whistlin' down the wind
- Death Song: In "Whistle Down the Wind," the narrator implies that he is planning to kill himself.I can't stay here and I'm scared to leave
So kiss me once and then
I'll go to hell; I might as well
Be whistlin' down the wind
- Devil, but No God: There is most certainly a devil in the world of Bone Machine, but if God exists at all, he isn't interested in you.Heaven is full
- To make matters worse, the Jesus the singer of "Jesus Gonna Be Here" is waiting for is strongly implied by "Black Wings" to be the devil.He's not there for he has risen
He's not there for he has risen
- Double Entendre: The entirety of "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me": Read at face value, it's the already dark story of a man who has decided to postpone drowning himself, but consider "the ocean" a metaphor for a girl, and the lyrics take on a new dimension.I'll open my head
And let out all of my time
I'd love to go drowning
And to stay and to stay
But the ocean doesn't want me today
I'll go in up to here
It can't possibly hurt
- This reading is supported by the Call-Back in "A Little Rain":She was fifteen years old
And she'd never seen the ocean
She climbed into a van with a vagabond
- The End of the World as We Know It: "Earth Died Screaming," interestingly enough placed as the first track of the album:
- Evil Sounds Deep: Waits's voice is at its lowest on the album in "Black Wings," which seems to be concerned with the supreme evil being.
- Face on the Cover: Played with; Waits's face is almost unrecognizable.
- Gladiator Games: "In the Colosseum," about the violent spectacle in the Colosseum.
- Gothic Country Music: The album plays with this genre, though its instrumentation is a bit weirder.
- "Murder in the Red Barn" is an iconic example, discussing a mysterious murder in vague, macabre, and decidedly rural terms.The trees are bending over and the cows are lying down
The autumn's taking over, you can hear the Buckshot hounds ...
Pin it on a drifter they sleep beneath the bridge
One plays the violin and sleeps inside a fridge
- In "Whistle Down the Wind," a man dying somewhere in the Great Plains region laments that he never got to leave his small town and do all that he always imagined he would.
- "Murder in the Red Barn" is an iconic example, discussing a mysterious murder in vague, macabre, and decidedly rural terms.
- Grief Song: "Dirt in the Ground," for all of humanity at large.
- Growing Up Sucks: "I Don't Wanna Grow Up":I don't wanna put no money down
I don't wanna get me a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don't wanna float a broom
Fall in and get married then boom
How the hell did it get here so soon
I don't wanna grow up
- Hell Is That Noise: Many of the sounds on the album can make listeners wonder this. Answers range from unusual instruments to odd machines and random objects.
- In Harmony with Nature: The literalist reading of "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me," where a man puts off drowning himself because he believes he can tell that the ocean isn't ready for him. He fantasizes about the further harmony the drowning will achieve:
- Instrumentals: "Let Me Get Up On It" has lyrics, but they might as well be just another instrument.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: "Jesus Gonna Be Here," where Jesus apparently drives around in a fancy car:I got to keep my eyes open
So I can see my Lord
I'm gonna watch the horizon
For a brand new Ford
I can hear him rolling on down the lane
I said Hollywood be thy name
Jesus gonna be, gonna be here soon.
- Lyrical Tic: Half-articulated Wells at the beginnings of lines are frequent.
- Motif: Bones.
- "Earth Died Screaming":Bring me some water, put it in this skull ...
And the army ants, they leave nothin' but the bones
- "Dirt in the Ground":And the wind through your bones is all that remains ...
Along a river of flesh, can these dry bones live?
- "Such a Scream":The plow is red, the well is full
Inside the dollhouse of her skull
- "All Stripped Down":Let your backbone flip and let your spirit shine through
- "Who Are You":Are you still leaving nothing
But bones in the way?
- "Black Wings":And the fence posts in the moonlight
Look like bones
- "Whistle Down the Wind":So I will take the Marley Bone Coach
And whistle down the wind
- "I Don't Wanna Grow Up":I don't wanna get me a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
- "Earth Died Screaming":
- Murder Ballad: "Murder in the Red Barn":There was a murder in the red barn
A murder in the red barn
Now thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house
Or covet thy neighbor's wife
But for some murder is the only door through which they enter life
- Mythology Gag: In "Whistle Down the Wind," to the album Bone Machine Spiritually Succeeded:
- New Sound Album: More minimalistic and percussion driven—something Waits referred to as "bones rock," as in "stripped down to the bare bones"—than his previous work. Lyrically darker as well.
- Nightmare Face: Waits on the album cover.
- Noble Demon: The subject of "Black Wings." "He broke out of every prison," and "they say he once killed a man with a guitar string," yet "he once saved a baby from drowning," and "there are those who say beneath his coat there are wings."
- Non-Appearing Title: The phrase "Bone Machine" never appears in any of the songs, although the word "bone" does appear in over half.
- Old Flame Fizzle: "Who Are You" is a scathing polemic to an old lover.Oh, well I did my time
In the jail of your arms
- Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: "Black Wings":They say he once killed a man with a guitar string
- Power Gives You Wings: "Black Wings":Some say beneath his coat there are wings.
- Questioning Title?: "Who Are You"?
- Quest to the West: "Goin' Out West" is something of a deconstruction: the singer, brainwashed by media images of idyllic Hollywood happiness, sets out for where he believes people will "appreciate" him.
- Rain of Something Unusual: "Earth Died Screaming":There was thunder, there was lightning
Then the stars went out
And the moon fell from the sky
It rained mackerel, it rained trout
- Rugged Scar: "Goin' Out West":I don't need no makeup; I got real scars
- Satan: The subject of "Black Wings" seems to be this, unsettlingly crossed with elements of the Jesus story.
- Second Coming: The singer of "Jesus Gonna Be Here" is waiting for this. Truth be told, he sounds a little cracked.
- Signs of the End Times: "Earth Died Screaming" lists many classics, including locusts and the stars going out.
- Small Town Boredom: Exaggerated in "Whistle Down the Wind," which delves into the deep, desperate grief engendered by a life spent in a suffocating small town.The buses at the corner
The clock on the wall
Broken down windmill
There ain't no wind at all
I've yelled and I've cursed
If I stay here I'll rust
I'm stuck like a shipwreck
Out here in the dust
- Special Guest: Les Claypool from Primus plays electric bass on "Earth Died Screaming," drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia drums on "All Stripped Down" and "In the Colosseum," David Hidalgo from Los Lobos plays violin and accordion on "Whistle Down the Wind," and Keith Richards duets along with Waits on "That Feel."
- Spoonerism: A clever variation on the chorus in "In the Colosseum":In the Colosseum
We call 'em as we see 'em
- The Stars Are Going Out: Occurs during the apocalypse in "Earth Died Screaming."
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: A subtle one in "Black Wings":He can turn himself into a stranger
Well they broke a lot of canes on his hide
He was born away in a cornfieldnote
A fever beats in his head like a drum inside
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Murder in the Red Barn":Cause there's nothin' strange
About an axe with bloodstains in the barn
There's always some killin'
You got to do around the farm
- The Swarm: One of the Signs of the End Times in "Earth Died Screaming" is when "the locusts take the sky."
- Tick Tock Tune: "Earth Died Screaming."
- True Beauty Is on the Inside: "All Stripped Down." In a very twisted way, of course. This is Tom Waits.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Bone Machine" for the human body, as Waits himself explains in the press kit for the album:What's a bone machine? Most of the principles of most machines developed in the machine age were principles that were found in the human body. Originally, I was going to take sounds of machines I'd recorded, and add a really strong rhythmic sense; I was going to try to build songs out of the rhythms. But then it didn't really develop that way. The stories kind of took over. So it's more bone than machine. Bone Machine... We're all like bone machines, I guess. We break down eventually, and we're replaced by other models. Newer models. Younger models. Bone Machine... Sounds like a superhero, doesn't it?
- We All Die Someday: This is essentially the overall theme of the album.
- While Rome Burns:The earth died screaming
While I lay dreaming
Dreaming of you
- Who Are You?: One track carries this title.