How many national music treasures come from the United States? You know those ones that are still alive that you can point to and say that our musical culture would be less without their contribution, and I mean, yeah, there is Bob Dylan, possibly the Boss, Iggy Pop; but I would be willing to place one Thomas Alan Waits up in that pantheon (he would certainly be on my Mount Rushmore of US musicians) if for nothing other than his impeccable musical track record (again this is of course a completely subjective statement) and sheer adventurous spirit. Well, lucky for us, Kathleen Brennan has booted her husband in the rear and brought him back with his first new material since 2004’s Real Gone; and he is certainly trotting this new record out there with all the style and panache (as well as the amazingly dry wit) for which his crazy fanatics love him, and Bad As Me is completely worth the wait.
Let me tell you how Bad As Me immediately put a smile on my face while completely throwing me for a loop as it feels that Mr. Waits has come full circle in his career (cynically bastards will say that Orphans… may have presaged this change in musical latitudes; now wait a second, I know what you may be thinking considering Waits’ penchant for off the beaten path sonic explorations (see his love affair with Harry Partch), but let me assure you that this album is still Tom Waits through and through. I may say that long time listeners of Waits’ near mythical career will be pleasantly surprised at the parallels between some of the songs here and most of his 1970’s work complete with some songs that sound like days of his turn as a liquor soaked piano balladeer (like “Kiss Me”, “Pay Me” and “Back In The Crowd”); still, there are those crazy chain gang insanities going on the record as well like in “Hell Broke Luce” (the droning guitar and cut and paste guitars make for not just a disorienting listen but may also be my favorite track on Bad As Me) and the surf tinged falsetto of “Talking At The Same Time” while not forgetting the barroom bounce of “Get Lost”.
This is quite possibly my favorite whole Tom Waits album in quite a while if only in part because it is concise and in no way overwhelming (as a self-styled Waits aficionado, even I still find it difficult to listen to Orphans… all the way through in one sitting and that isn’t a comment on its quality, because it is an excellent record but rather it speaks to the sheer quantity on the three CD release), and the album just zings by moving from romper to ballad to crooner and back again almost as if Waits was leaving a little something for everyone on Bad As Me. I seriously love this record and hope to sweet jesus he decides to tour in the northeast because these songs would cook live with their hyper kinetic sounds and there are quite a few tracks here that are quickly rising in the pantheon of the Waits & Brennan songbook; someone recently said, “Bad As Me is as brilliant as an album composed by Brennan and him should be… I hope they live forever…” to which I can only second these sentiments.
8.5 / 10
What are your criteria for a good album, a good record, a good song even? For me, the criteria are many; but there is one that really separates the great ...
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