Bad As Me
Tom Waits’ first studio album in seven years explores familiar themes of love and religion gone wrong under some new and largely satisfying arrangements. Armed with the most awesomely peculiar voice in American music, Waits understands the necessity of reinvention to keep the wheels turning after decades and decades of recording. The approach pays dividends on Bad As Me, with the exception of the clunky bass line and awkward blues stabs of “Raised Right Men.”
On tracks such as “Pay Me” and “Talking At The Same Time,” Waits’ perpetually-stellar songwriting soars. He personifies sorrow with his slow-burning ballads and kicks the living shit out of it with his bruised baritone. Bare bone riffs peppered with sporadic, meandering keys puts Waits right at home on the instant classic come-on of “Kiss Me.”
The loose and fresh sound of Bad As Me is owed at least in part to the ensemble of musicians corralled for the studio sessions and longtime Waits collaborator Kathleen Brennan. The meditation on age and experience that is “Last Leaf” brings an intriguing duet to the fold before album-closing “New Year’s Eve” beautifully punctuates the 13 track affair with the barroom panache of Blue Valentine era Waits.
Song you will remember in five years: “Kiss Me”