When I first heard that actress Scarlett Johansson was recording an album of Tom Waits songs, all I could do was shake my head. I'm a huge Waits fan, and it was hard to imagine her—or anyone else, for that matter—taking on an entire album of his material. Jazz singer Holly Cole had tried, and failed. But after TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek signed on to produce, I became curious. And when members of Baltimore's Celebration and David Bowie were recruited for the project, I became downright intrigued.
Now that Anywhere I Lay My Head is out, I'm reminded why I was so skeptical in the first place. Sitek does a heroic job placing the songs in a different context (very 4AD-ish), but Johansson displays no interpretive skill whatsoever. She's so flat that all of Sitek's sonic shaman-ism can't rescue the performances.
And I'm reaching for my copies of Swordfishtrombones and Lost In Translation.