Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Tom Waits

Bad As Me (2011)

Anti- Records

Another decade, another era for Tom Waits. It's been that way for close to 40 years at this point, you know. The recent Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee (Neil Young gave the speech,) has made a career of being somewhat of a chameleon. The '70s found Waits exploring his bar-soaked, jazz-influenced, piano-based period on albums such as The Heart of Saturday Night and Closing Time. A new wife and new sobriety heralded the '80s with the landmark album Rain Dogs and Waits ushered a new era and a new style (discovering "found" instruments such as pots, pans, garbage tins and overhead airplanes) when Bone Machine was released in 1992 (None other than the Ramones covered the latter's "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" on their swan song, Adios Amigos!)

Waits has focused on other projects since the mid-'90s. Occasional acting, some fishing with John Lurie (check out "Fishing With John" on YouTube sometime) has occupied most of his time since then (OK, with an album or two compiling music and a thematic show or two--but it's Tom Waits and he‘s prolific, dammit!). In 2011, Waits comes out with his first collection of new material in seven years with Bad As Me.

The frenetic pace and harmonica (and trademark whiskey/nicotine/sandpaper-soaked vocals by Waits) of "Chicago" set the tone. It's clear from the opening that Waits is taking the full scope of his career and throwing it into his newest project--and it's amazing.

To analyze each song would not only be a disservice to the listener, but a vast misrepresentations of Waits' lyrical prowess. Love, loss, politics ("Talking at the Same Time" is particularly prescient, along with "Hell Broke Luce") are all covered. The closing song, "New Year's Eve," brings all of his talent to a crescendo, incorporating the lyrics to the standard "Auld Lang Syne" to his own song to bring a feeling of melancholy and longing reminiscent of Waits' classic "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis".

Tom Waits continues to be someone a bar-regular would want to sit down next to over a pint (or a shot) and a smoke and talk for hours without noticing the time. Bad As Me only serves to reinforce that thought, and in the best ways. The 45 minutes you spend with this album are not only quick yet melancholy, but beg you to refill your glass and listen again. Tom Waits continues to be an enigma. And, seriously, who would have it any other way?