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Baker's Dozen

By Design: Jim Jones Of The Righteous Mind's Favourite Albums
Julian Marszalek , September 15th, 2015 13:23

Before they headline Walthamstow's Stow Festival this weekend, The Righteous Mind's leader gives Julian Marszalek an insight into "where my head is at right now" with a tour through his current top 13 albums


Tom Waits - Mule Variations
When I was young I listened to Swordfishtrombones and Franks Wild Years and me and my mates loved them. They were the albums you listened to when you were having a smoke and a drink and you'd go, "This is great", but I think I was too young to know what to do with them. There was a lot of information there and I didn't quite know what to do with it. As you get older and more mature as a musician, you then go, "Right! I can see now what he's doing there" and you can look at that process and learn from it.

Like the other albums that I've chosen, Mule Variations has got so many great songs on it, particularly the ballad-y type ones. 'Take It With Me' is in my all-time top ten songs. This is a tricky one for me because I'm not really an albums-type person; I'm more of a song person and I'll pick out songs for certain reasons and that's what I'm listening to right now because that song has a particular kind of production about it and a certain kind of emotion around it and you get to understand the nuts and bolts of what's gone into it to achieve that kind of effect. I'd stick the whole album down probably based just on that song.

It's not only a beautiful song, because for me, it's the whole thing. It barely resolves as a piece of writing: it's got no drums, it's got no metre, it doesn't stick to any kind of particular beat, there are only about two places in the song where anything rhymes. If you listen to the lyrics, one line comes after another line and after another line and there are no rhymes until he gets to those two little middle eight sections where just the last two couplets rhyme. And there's that terrific lyric: "In a land there's a town/ and in that town there's/ A house/ and in that house/ there's a woman/ and in that woman/ there's a heart I love" and just saying it makes me want to cry. It's like zooming in from the universe into this sense of loneliness and when I listen to it I just gasp a little bit. One day I'll write something as good as that.

And then you've got all the other stuff on there. 'Filipino Box Spring Hog' is as raunchy as any Stones number and of course you've got 'What's He Building?' which is fucking genius. It's in a real Ken Nordine style. On the surface it sounds like he's rapping with a few funny one-liners but the words are very carefully chosen. To quote the guy from the Hannibal TV series, "It's by design."

This is so good because he decided to be this good. It's not a case of, "Oh, let's just play and if turns out great then hooray for us." Tom Waits has thought about it and figured out how to be good. I really hear that in him. He's not accidentally that character; it's by design.