Update, Aug. 2: Waits' publicist just sent out another mysterious email with a strange image and a cryptic subject line that reads, "I breathe better under water." Check it out after the jump.
Original post: This morning, Tom Waits' publicist sent out what may be the least-informative press release of all time: An email with the subject line "Tom Waits: Permission to Come Aboard?" and a photo of the artist looking like a mad pirate, wearing an eye patch and cigar, cutlass poised behind his head for a good slashing. Text on the photo reads "Coming August 7."
What could this mean? Since mystery is obviously part of the intent, let's bite: Here's our five best guesses as to what Waits is teasing here. Leave yours in the comments.
5. An Internet webcast
Not that Waits has exactly a history of high-tech experimentation, but the language "permission to come aboard" could suggest that he'll be entering our turf -- and not just the quasi-public turf of a local stage (although see below). Could Waits be coming aboard your home-ship via the magic of the Internet? It doesn't seem impossible.
4. A new record of some sort
It'd be an unusual way to tease new music -- although not in total contrast with the cryptic preview that first announced Bad As Me -- but this could be a tease for a concept album of sorts. Maybe Waits has new recorded material that will simply appear on iTunes one day? The fact that Aug. 7 is a Tuesday -- the day new records are released in the U.S. -- makes this seem at least plausible.
3. A weirdo film in which Waits plays a pirate
Total fantasy, but how awesome would this be? Aside from maybe the porkpie hat, this image testifies to Waits' utter suitability to play some kinda rapacious ruffian scouring the high seas for bootie and/or old pianos. Denying this pirate permission to come aboard might be a fatal mistake...
2. A Tom Waits cruise
As suggested by Andy Greene over at Rolling Stone, the idea of a Tom Waits tour almost seems plausible in an era of Coachella boat trips and the Bruise Cruise. Certainly the nautical/pirate theme would be very appropriate in this case. But a cruise seems like overkill at this point, since many Waits fans would be satisfied with just a 90-minute live show in a city near them. Which brings us to our final guess...
1. A tour
We really, really hope this is a very unusual tour teaser. Waits hasn't toured since releasing last year's acclaimed Bad As Me, (though he did hit the late-night TV circuit earlier this month) so in our minds, at least, it's time for him to hit the road. "Permission to Come Aboard" could refer to a tour bus, we guess, although that does seem a bit ridiculous, even for him. Maybe he's touring the coasts on an 18th-century cutter this time? If it is a tour announcement, here's hoping he wears the pirate getup onstage.
Either way, we'll be eagerly awaiting Aug. 7 to see if any of our guesses are right -- or if Waits has something else totally unexpected up his sleeve.
Update, Aug 2: Well, we just received the image above from Waits, under the subject line "I breathe better under water." Any thoughts on what this could mean? Maybe the Tom Waits cruise will include a diving trip? Whatever it is, we're finding out next Tuesday.