The morning after: waking up in the same clothes you slept in, your aching head on the pillow of some foreign bed, self-awareness dawning on you and the clarity that comes with those first few moments of consciousness. Your brain feels like a sick oyster shrinking in the shell of your skull; you know you’ve been in this position far too many times and you’re genuinely baffled as to why you persist on winding up in it. This scenario is the sound captured by “That Feel”, the hangover rising up from within and you being resigned to claim it almost as a badge of honor.
As far as album closers go, they don’t come more effective (and affecting) than “That Feel”. Opening with a languid guitar sounding like a drunkard rolling out of bed and a dirge-like drum rattle, the song breaks in the way of sunlight creeping through the slots of a boarded up window. The ramshackle ferocity dominating Bone Machine is largely absent here, Tom Waits toning it down and creating the sensation of one awakening from the night terrors of the previous songs. You might be lucid, but the impact of that ordeal is not going to leave you; the feeling that the woes of life have imparted on you will remain, and will define you for the time you have left. “There’s one thing you can’t lose / It’s that feel”, Waits sings, sluggishly trying to assert some sobriety, “Your pants, your shirt, your shoes / But not that feel”. He doesn’t define what “that feel” is, for there’s no need to do so; you either have that feel or you don’t, and those that don’t, well, they will eventually.