By Tim Newman
TFW Contributing Writer
Tom Waits’ 17th studio release, “Bad As Me,” dives further into the experimental blues-rock sound of Waits’ 1999 release, “Mule Variations,” while expanding deeper into the villainous persona created on “Swordfishtrombones” in 1983.
Although this is the first release of entirely new material in seven years, “Bad As Me” is an intriguing continuation of everything Waits has done thus far in his 39-year career, which is exactly what you’d expect from the 61-year-old multi-instrumentalist and his longtime co-collaborator and wife, Kathleen Brennan.
With 13 tracks and a total running time of less than 45 minutes, Waits pulls off stylistic backtracking while moving forward simultaneously.
This record explodes into a train’s pace with the chuga-chuga of the brass and sax heavy opening track “Chicago” with a fast tempo not often heard in Waits’ music.
Jumping from the saunter of the velvety falsetto on “Talking At The Same Time” to the ’50s Elvis style in “Get Lost” to the expected anti-hero character of the stompy title track “Bad as Me,” Waits shows off his consistently phenomenal lyrical capabilities.
Sprinkled with somber yet jovial love songs such as “Face To The Highway,” lyrically reminiscent of his 1976 single “The Piano Has Been Drinking,” and the poetic, heart-moving “Kiss Me,” there are songs here even the Tom Waits virgin can open themselves up to.
Although, only the more longstanding fans will probably enjoy the heavy industrial feeling in the war-themed song “Hell Broke Luce,” which is one of two tracks featuring Flea, of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame, on bass.
“New Year’s Eve” ends the album perfectly with a bar story lacking resolution (common for Waits) and, with a voice that shifts between the sweetness of sugar and the thickness of smoke, he also performs a beautiful rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.”
With haunting hooks and simple song structure, this album is certain to be on many people’s Top 10 albums of 2011 list.
Check out tomwaits.com for more information.