Mule Variations

Release date
9 Nov 2007
Running length
16 tracks
Running time


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    Track     Duration Listeners
1 Big in Japan 4:05 101,842
2 Lowside of the Road 2:59 64,687
3 Hold On 5:33 154,080
4 Get Behind the Mule 6:52 96,902
5 House Where Nobody Lives 4:14 76,263
6 Cold Water 5:23 73,697
7 Pony 4:32 65,933
8 What's He Building In There 3:20 15,097
9 Black Market Baby 5:02 62,388
10 Eyeball Kid 4:25 60,241
11 Picture in a Frame 3:39 68,891
12 Chocolate Jesus 3:55 97,443
13 Georgia Lee 4:24 59,647
14 Filipino Box Spring Hog 3:09 60,445
15 Take It With Me 4:24 64,629
16 Come on Up to the House 4:36 69,940

About this album

Tom Waits grew steadily less prolific after redefining himself as a junkyard noise poet with Swordfishtrombones, but the five-year wait between The Black Rider and 1999’s Mule Variations was the longest yet. Given the fact that Waits decided to abandon major labels for the California indie Epitaph, Mule Variations would seem like a golden opportunity to redefine himself and begin a new phase of his career. However, it plays like a revue of highlights from every album he’s made since Swordfishtrombones. Of course, that’s hardly a criticism; the album uses the ragged cacophony of Bone Machine as a starting point, and proceeds to bring in the songwriterly aspects of Rain Dogs, along with its affection for backstreet and backwoods blues, plus a hint of the beatnik qualities of Swordfish. So Mule Variations delivers what fans want, in terms of both songs and sonics. But that also explains why it sounds terrific on initial spins, only to reveal itself as slightly dissatisfying with subsequent plays. All of Waits’ Island records felt like fully conceived albums with genuine themes. Mule Variations, in contrast, is a collection of moments, and while each of those moments is very good (some even bordering on excellent), ultimately the whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.

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  • Unopuntocinco


    26 Jun 5:52am Reply
  • VadiushaKomarov

    rating 9/10

    22 Jun 5:45pm Reply
  • OcellatedGod

    Whose isn't?

    4 Mar 6:37pm Reply
  • francis_bacon

    @OcellatedGod, you're right , your judgment is subjective

    2 Mar 5:52pm Reply
  • OcellatedGod

    That's subjective. I think it's one of his dullest.

    1 Mar 9:01pm Reply
  • WLDB

    Because it is among his best.

    13 Dec 2014 Reply
  • OcellatedGod

    This album is uninspired and mostly annoying, I don't really see why people keep ranking it with his best.

    25 Oct 2014 Reply
  • dylangraves1993

    I feel that this is the Rain Dogs to Bone Machine's Swordfishtrombones. He took a concept to an entirely different level of awesome.

    15 Oct 2014 Reply
  • Rezzo64

    PhotoShop isn't an aesthetic, it's a piece of software.

    9 Sep 2013 Reply
  • dinkydauisshit

    to be fair the album art is from 1999, so the aesthetic you guys are talking about wasnt a cliche yet

    20 Jun 2013 Reply
  • Nakkinak

    Some emo kid went loose in Photoshop [2]

    27 Apr 2013 Reply
  • sunheadbowed

    Some emo kid went loose in Photoshop? Um, what?

    1 Mar 2013 Reply
  • Bastard1

    Always hated this cover, looks like some emo kid went loose in Photoshop.

    23 Jan 2013 Reply
  • BUTYproboszcza

    Probably my favorite Waits album.

    2 Nov 2012 Reply
  • inutoneko

    I want to be invited to his house

    28 Sep 2012 Reply
  • agnes108

    Chocolate Jesus my favourite

    22 Feb 2012 Reply
  • restinagony

    What's he building in there? We have a right to know.

    1 Feb 2012 Reply
  • Riverstokes

    Mine too! Fan-fucking-tastic!

    17 Jan 2012 Reply
  • Funeral_Opolis

    this is definitely my favorite Waits album.

    8 Oct 2011 Reply
  • jgnorris1

    I know this isn't a massively popular opinion, but I honestly think this is his best album, because it balances madness and beauty so expertly - most Tom Waits albums have had moments of both, but heavily come down on one side or the other. This is the only album to balance both against against each other in perfect equilibrium, I reckon.

    10 Sep 2011 Reply
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