Ken Leighton 12:03 p.m., Jan. 24
Bad As Me
02. Raised Right Men
03. Talking At The Same Time
04. Get Lost
05. Face To The Highway
06. Pay Me
07. Back In The Crowd
08. Bad As Me
09. Kiss Me
11. Last Leaf
12. Hell Broke Luce
13. New Year's Eve
After seven years' absence, the end-times crooning of Tom Waits sounds like a derelict uncle scorning a mediocre music industry. With this collage of growling, blues-drenched songs, Uncle Tom is back.
Waits tries to rekindle young love, seductively inviting his wife (Kathleen Brennan) to “Kiss me like a stranger once again.” “New Years Eve” epitomizes “Anywhere I Lay My Head” and is played almost exclusively with wind instruments to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.”
The songs feel tightly knit, with Keith Richards playing strong hooks on several tracks and a platoon of Les Claypool, Larry Taylor, and Flea alternating on bass.
A Waits album wouldn't be complete without the dexterous manipulation of his unique voice. Just to mention a few variations: the bereaved-forlorn foghorn (“Face the Highway”), the barroom-falsetto (“Talking at the Same Time”), demented-evil (“Bad As Me”), nostalgic storyteller (“Pay Me”), agitated (“Get Lost” — before incoherently asphyxiating in the last ten seconds of the track), and, my personal favorite, the diabolic murderer (“Hell Broke Luce”).
“Mr. Jagger, Mr. Richards, I will scratch where I've been itching,” he (literally) spits between uh-huhs in “Satisfied.” We can only hope that Mr. Waits still has many more itches to scratch before he's satisfied.