The latest from Tom Waits, "Bad As Me," is a keeper. But then I'm the guy with most of his 20-odd albums cluttering up the joint, in CD and in vinyl.
The latest from Tom Waits, “Bad As Me,” hit the stores today, and I bought my copy from the fine folks at Independent Records & Video, reasoning that Bibleburg could use the sales tax to plug a few of the potholes that keep knocking my wheels out of true.
I sprung for the deluxe edition, which includes a smallish book containing all the lyrics, photos, a breakdown of who plays what on which tracks and three additional tunes. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Musically, Waits is all over the map on this one. There’s less banging on shit just to hear what it sounds like and more toe-tappers; an occasional tip of the bowler to the bluesy old days of “Nighthawks,” “Blue Valentine” and “Small Change”; and a couple of audio political cartoons that I enjoyed a lot, especially “Hell Broke Luce.”
Herself thought she detected some marital distress in a few numbers, like “Face to the Highway,” “Back In the Crowd” and “Kiss Me,” but I’m not sure her spidey-sense is tuned into the Waits frequency. He’s always loved a good weeper, like “Ruby’s Arms” from “Heartattack and Vine.” And if there’s ever been a better fuck-you-I’m-gone track than “Frank’s Wild Years” from “Swordfishtrombones,” I’ve never heard one.
“Last Leaf,” a duet with Keith Richards, is just a song about the last leaf on a tree, says Waits. Uh huh. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful. And “New Year’s Eve” could be a Pogues number — it reminds me of “Fairytale of New York,” and I know Waits is a fan of the band and of Shane Macgowan, though like the rest of us he wishes the manky git would do summat about them teefuses a his.
Quitting the booze and the butts has mellowed the man’s voice without constricting his vision. If you’re a Tom Waits fan, you want “Bad As Me” in your collection.
• Extra credit bonus Waits: Libby, a longtime friend of the DogS(h)ite, sends this link to a Guardian interview with the man himself. It’s a good read.