Saturday, December 17, 2011


Tom Waits is amazing. And so is his latest album, Bad As Me. I'm a big fan of Tom's most recent records, the ones he's done since signing to Epitaph Records' Anti- label. My favorite Waits album is 1999's Mule Variations.  That's pretty much when I got into him.  I was kind of prompted to check out his music because of his association with one of my favorite bands, Primus (he does guest vocals on "Tommy The Cat"). From Mule Variations, I went back and investigated his Elektra and Island years. Wow, what a body of work.  He kind of gets weirder as he gets older, which is the opposite of most artists. But his songs always pack a punch.

Anyway, Bad As Me is just classic. It seems to touch on all the different phases of his career.  The opening track, "Chicago," fits in with his music from the past decade or so, it sounds like it could have been on Mule Variations. "Hell Broke Luce" reminds me of his most bizarre era, the early '90s when he did Bone Machine and The Black Rider. But some of the ballads, like "New Year's Eve" has that boozy, last-call sound from his earliest records.  But despite the stylistic diversity, the album still feels like it has a real continuity, it has a real flow to it.

There are so many great songs here: I love "Chicago" and "New Year's Eve."  "Talking At The Same Time" is awesome, Tom sings in that otherworldly falsetto.  You never know what year it is when you hear a Tom Waits song, but when he sings, "Well, the dog is in the kitchen/and the war drags on/The trees wait by the freeway/all the money is gone," well, what feels more 2011 than that?

My two favorite moments come toward the end of the album.  I love "Satisfied," which is kind of a 60-something's answer to "Satisfaction." When he sings, "Now Mr. Jagger, Mr. Richards, I will scratch where I've been itching," it's cool, punk rock and defiant. Upping the cool ante, though, is the fact that Keith Richards is playing guitar on the song. (Les Claypool from Primus is playing bass on the track: how many artists could get members of those bands on one album, much less one song?). The next song is my other favorite, and it also features Mr. Richards. "Last Leaf" holds up with any of his ballads, "Ol' 55," "Jersey Girl," whatever you want to name.  Keith is the perfect foil for Tom on this song and this album.  In fact, I'm thinking that if Mr. Jagger doesn't get a Stones tour together, Keith should join Tom's touring band.

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