Sunday, October 30, 2011

REVIEW: Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Time to make room on Mt. Rushmore for one more American hero.

Bad As Me, and of course no one is as gloriously badass as Tom Waits, is the 61 year old artist's first release of new material in 7 years. It was well worth the wait.

Here's Waits' reaction, you judge how tongue-in-cheek, to the album being leaked over the internet prior to release date:

Bad as Me is completely in keeping with the chaos of the day - it clanks, wails, weeps and rages. If I had to describe it with a simple term, it's a rock'n'roll record. There is a groove, energy and major force to this effort. And even classic rockabilly, on the delicious "Get Lost".

It's restless, its characters cooped up and maybe moving across the country, or thinking their relationships are falling apart, searching, longing, in pain, and sometimes even at war.

If you are a musician, and your phone rings and its Tom Waits asking you to play on his record, you of course answer yes. So on guitars here we have Marc Ribot, David Hidalgo and Keith Richards. And wow do they bring it, amplify the deparate mood and get a great sound.

One highlight of Bad As Me is a raging rocker, "Satisfied". Waits, as usual speaking in first person, turns the typical young man voice of rock'n'roll on its ear, tipping his hat to the Rolling Stones classic "Satisfaction", but contemplating later age and impending death, and vowing to go out with a bang, while a now much older Keith Richards is a laying down the big rock riffs over a mile wide groove:

Before I'm gone
I will have satisfaction
I will be satisfied
Now Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards
I will scratch where I've been itching.

Instead of "I hope I die before I get old", Waits' brand of rock'n'roll here is more like "I am going to kick life's ass and yours too before I get old and die."

Here's the wild and wooly title track:

But just as effective and moving is this gorgeous ballad "Back in the Crowd" that merges mariachi and country music:

As sentimental as Waits can be, and I've always loved that side of his writing, he also presents here one of the harshest and most unflinching songs about war I've ever heard, "Hell Broke Luce", so brutal and real that it's as hard to look away from as it is to absorb.

Here's a terrific feature story on Waits and the making of Bad as Me from the New York Times: Tom Waits: Bad As Me - 10/23 NY Times Feature

And while we are at it, here's an interview Waits did with himself a few years back, one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing, hilarious and brilliant, and a must read:

Waits on Waits - 2008 interview from NPR's All Songs Considered Blog

Artist web page:

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