Album Reviews

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

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Tom Waits
Bad As Me

(Anti-)

The Cheshire cat grin sprawled across Tom Waits’ face on the cover of Bad As Me is no coincidence—he’s up to something mischievous here.

After years spent dabbling in dark and sinister musicality, Waits has now shifted gears, turning into a full-blown Howlin’ Wolf. This makes for his first genuinely accessible album since 1980’s Heartattack and Vine.

The marimbas of yore are gone. In their place are the rollicking guitar melodies of Keith Richards and the sonic blasts of harmonica maestro Charlie Musselwhite. When Waits shouts out “All aboard!” at the end of “Chicago,” hold on tight because you’re about to embark on one fantastic, genre-hopscotching ride.

From the Buddy Holly sounds of “Get Lost,” to the soulful sea shanty “Pay Me,” to the Ironweed-derived “New Years Eve,” Waits shows he’s always had the heart of a poet. There’s also a terrific bevy of raunchy and gut-kicker tunes here as well. Waits flawlessly spews forth Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ combination of slime and sex on the album’s title track. “Satisfied” is another delicious number—you can’t help but laugh when Waits sings, “I’ll be hard as a pit from a peach,” making sure to punctuate his p’s.

Yet Waits knows just when to have you at attention with “Hell Broke Luce,” a biting rant about the futility of war. As a whole, Bad as Me proves this is one chameleon whose colors have never stopped blinding us with beauty.

—Ira Kantor

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