Review : Tom Waits - Bad as Me
PitchforkBack when The Old, Weird America, Greil Marcus' expansive treatise on Bob Dylan's 1967 collaboration with the Band, was first published in hardcover in 1997 (the same year, incidentally, that Smithsonian Folkways reissued Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music), it was called Invisible Republic. It was an apt, even poignant title that still never managed to evoke half the wistfulness its paperback replacement did. Marcus' disciples quickly rallied around the new phrase, adopting it as a kind of credo, a genre, and an aspirational aesthetic that owed as much to Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac as it did to Charley Patton and the Carter Family. And while collective cultural nostalgia (for times real or imagined) has become part of the zeitgeist, longing for a dusty and peculiar past-- for the misbegotten and the unfussed-with, the archaic and the odd-- isn't a particularly new phenomenon. Marcus sought and found those things in pre-war vernacular American music, in the songs Smith culled from his crates of 78s and gathered under a Celestial Monochord. Tom Waits hears them everywhere.
Bad as Me is Waits' first proper collection of studio material since 2004's Real Gone (in 2006, he released Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards, a 3xCD mélange of lost-and-found tracks). He's backed by a cabal of familiar, gnarly-faced noisemakers (David Hildalgo, longtime bandleader Marc Ribot, Keith Richards, Flea), and again shares writing and producing credit with his wife and erstwhile collaborator Kathleen Brennan. Waits' jerky grandpa bark, which he'd honed and perfected by his mid-twenties, was reverse-engineered to age well. Now, perhaps freed from the burden of approximation, he sounds especially wild and gleeful, hollering with deranged aplomb. Bad as Me is as essential-- and as essentially weird-- as anything he's done before.
Bad as Me comprises mostly love songs: paeans to lasting love, the kind that changes and bends. Even when Waits is yearning for freedom, as he does on the drunk and twitchy "Get Lost", he still wants his longtime girl by his side. "When you wear that real tight sweater/ You know I can't resist/ It's been that way forever baby/ Ever since we kissed," he croons, his voice raw and giddy; he sounds like a guy who was pummeled by a car, got up, staggered off, and started singing. On the title track, over piano, baritone sax, and spastic guitar stabs, he celebrates mutual failure ("You're mother superior in only a bra/ You're the same kind of bad as me"), positioning compatible sin as its own triumph over circumstance. Elsewhere, he adheres to old-fashioned ideals about the "power of a good woman's love," lamenting, as he does on the ramshackle "Raised Right Men", the ways in which imperfect husbands ("Gunplay Maxwell and Flat Nose George, Ice Pick Ed Newcomb") routinely fail their partners....full text
GuardianSixty-one-year-old artists releasing the 17th studio album of their careers have normally earned the right not to make things easy for anyone. That theory should go double for song men such as Tom Waits, a bloody-minded old goat not overly given to the vagaries of commerce or fashion. He sings with a gulletful of acid reflux. He wears hats like it's 1947. There is only the one (unofficial) dubstep remix of his work online and it's not half bad.
And yet Waits's latest album is a primer of what a reality TV show host might call his best bits. It is the sort of disc you can hand to a Waits novice or sceptic with the confidence that this collection of brawlers, bawlers and bastards (as he characterised the three-way split in his work on his 2006 compilation) will do the job of conversion. All Waits is here, more or less: the barfly, the romantic, the curmudgeon, the method actor and the self-parodist. Only the clangorous experimentalist of The Black Rider is missing. Laughing along with Waits isn't hard. "Yerrr the sayme kinda bad as muy!" he yowls on the lurid, cartoonish title track, keeping up the appearance of a dissolute lowlife despite being a happily partnered-up man whose missus helps him write this stuff. Indeed, the terrific second track rues the lack of men "raised right", like someone ringing into a 5 Live phone-in.
"Satisfied" is another hoot. Taking its cue from the infamous Rolling Stones track, Waits demands satisfaction, but more in the florid style of an 18th-century duellist. "Now Mr Jagger! And Mr Richards! I will scratch where I been itching!" he blusters, as the very same Mr Richards struts and frets conspiratorially along on his guitar. Having cropped up as a guest on previous Waits albums, Richards lends a hand on four songs here, and it's easy to imagine Waits as having written "Bad As Me" as a love song to this twin soul.
For all the excellent clowning around, Bad As Me is, chiefly, an album full of compassion, anger and sorrow – the stuff that puts Waits on the same page as upstanding Bruce Springsteen and the emotional surgeon Leonard Cohen, as well as bad old Nick Cave and professional drunks the Pogues. "Pay Me" tells the story of an exile with a woozy weep that sounds both sentimentally Irish and quintessentially French. "They pay me not to come home," Waits rasps stoically. There are compromised men hitting the road here, failed relationships starting again (in "Chicago"), and lovers trying to rekindle their spark. The terrific "Kiss Me" is all vinyl hiss and jazzy antiquity, with Waits doing his gruffest bluesman growl. The warmongers and bankers get it in the neck so hard, you can't help but punch the air. "Talking at the Same Time" rues the downward turn of the economy with restrained elegance, while "Hell Broke Luce" is a lot angrier – a Waits-own rap set to left-right marching and machine gunfire. Indeed, Bad As Me's 13 tracks fairly rip along, alerting a new generation that there are few as fine as Waits....full text
Ventvox“All Aboard, All Aboard,” is the croaking cry of conductor Tom Waits as his train embarks for points unknown on the frenetic “Chicago,” which is taken from his ominously titled 17th album, Bad As Me. The unyielding train that dominates the introduction of Bad As Me serves as a perfect metaphor for Waits’ musical trajectory because there’s never been anything resembling a straight path in his career. Bad As Me is Waits’ first studio album in seven years since the junkyard auteur released Real Gone. While Real Gone was notable for embracing a hip-hop aesthetic and appearing more concerned with political affairs, it displeased many a Waits fan because of the notable absence of a piano and co-opting of the urban style.
Waits’ fans should rejoice then, as Bad As Me marks a return to form for the iconic statesman as it appears that the piano playing strongly figures into the mix. Bad As Me is also more guitar oriented than Real Gone as Marc Ribot, David Hidalgo and Keith Richards add their unique signatures to Waits’ ever-changing styles. Keef plays on four tracks, Hidalgo on seven and Ribot’s angular tones supplement eleven of the tracks. The racket that Waits’ troupe conjures on the tunes that he and his wife Kathleen Brennan have penned is mind-blowing and serves as an apt complement.
The themes that Waits and Brennan cover on Bad As Me include fresh starts, the ever-mandatory romantic (sentimental) numbers, assorted oddballs and politics. The fresh starts are depicted on “Chicago,” “Get Lost” and the David Lynchian “Face To The Highway” which nails the existential dread that comes with moving on as Ribot’s and Hidalgo’s guitars gently lull you along to passivity. The dreamlike tones they emulate with their guitars in this track are sublime. “Get Lost” tackles the theme of a fresh start with more machismo and causes a rave-up similar to Los Lobos’ “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes.”
Waits’ bread and butter are his romantic numbers and like any solid Waits’ album, Bad As Me is rife with them. There’s the typical broken hearts, “Pay Me,” “Back in the Crowd” and the coyly amorous piano and bass ballad, “Kiss Me” which harkens back to Waits’ 70’s output and could fit easily on “Heart of Saturday Night” or one of Bones Howe’s productions. “Last Leaf” is a wonderful, sentimental duet with Keith Richards that is similar to “That Feel” and serves as an appropriate statement as the two rockers age gracefully. The title track “Bad As Me” could also fit into this category although it’s obsessive nature might cast it as more in the vein of the next category, the oddball.
The oddball category exists theoretically for Waits to cast aside preconceptions and write about topics that could have been inspired from various archaic sources. This is the side of Waits that most of the diehards from the 1970’s can do without as Waits comes off his rocker and successfully dives into the ditch or into a far reaching abyss without any hope of coming back unscathed. “Raised Right Men” falls into this category containing one of Tom’s bizarre takes on etiquette. The only track you might skip on Bad As Me is the Mick and Keef cajoling “Satisfied” which attempts to answer The Stones “Satisfaction.” ”Satisfied” feels like a false start, the lyrics are half-baked and the band sounds like it needs a breather. Waits’ “New Year’s Eve” is an appropriate fit for this category although it is more reflective than a typical odd track. There’s an interplay between “New Year’s Eve” and “Auld Lang Syne” that is perfect and serves to highlight the fractured tale of a party that has gone awry....full text
Tom Waits Album Reviews
Sweetslyrics Top 20 Artists
Tom Waits Lyrics
Do you enjoy music in languages that you can't speak?