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.
- Album: Bad as Me
- Artist: Tom Waits
- Label: ANTI Records
- Songs: (1) Chicago (2) Raised Right Men (3) Talking At The Same Time (4) Get Lost (5) Face To The Highway (6) Pay Me (7) Back In The Crowd (8) Bad As Me (9) Kiss Me (10) Satisfied (11) Last Leaf (12) Hell Broke Luce (13) New Year's Eve