Tom Waits, BAD AS ME

Tom Waits is a master of many musical styles, and on Bad as Me he lets them all cut loose. The result is his most consistent and satisfying album since Bone Machine.

Bad as Me hits the ground running with "Chicago," a track that's pulse-pounding and a perfect snapshot of Waits' frequent combination of optimism and desperation: "Maybe things will be better in Chicago/to leave all we've ever known/for a place we've never seen." He then runs through a wide variety of song styles: blues ("Raised Right Men," "Last Leaf"), smoky jazz ("Kiss Me"), rockabily ("Get Lost"), the angry anti-war "Hell Broke Luce" and the maudlin "Last Leaf."

This album showcases both Waits' street poetry and distinctive voice. The songs have a rough elegance to them, whether he's romancing an old flame ("I want you to kiss me/ like a stranger once again") or feeling like an aged survivor ("I'm the last leaf on the tree/ the autumn took the rest/ but they won't take me"). And Waits can vary his voice from a gravel-filled rumble to an almost comical high pitch from song to song with ease -- and it all sounds good.

Tom Waits has been performing for decades now, and Bad as Me shows that experience pays off. This album keeps you guessing, delivers the unexpected, and manages to be quite sad, funny, angry, and touching.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: