Customer Review

48 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars recycled tom, 28 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Bad As Me (Audio CD)
i'll start off this (most likely unpopular) review by saying i'm a massive tom waits fan. to put the review in context, my favourite era is the mid-80s trilogy, which i hold up as a high water mark for music in the 80s. i also love his blues albums of the late 70s, the one from the heart album of 1982, and the heart of saturday night. i'm not a huge fan of his later albums (eg since 1987's frank's wild years) with the exceptions of the black rider and alice. i feel his work has faded into regurgitating his favourite themes in ever so slightly different ways, and his work is subject ot the law of diminishing returns. what seemed fresh and vibrant when he first did it seems less so, when you recognise the riff, when you recognise the lyric, when you recognise the format. it's the moment when you notice the card the magician has got hidden up his sleeve.

i would also say that i came to tom waits quite late (probably about a decade ago, and so listened to it in a fairly unordered sequence. therefore, bone machine was about the fourth album i listened to, etc, so i wasn't burned out by then - i just recognised the better writing and invention in the earlier stuff, and the stagnation in the later stuff. i also find he delivers his lyrics better in the older albums. his real strength for me over the years has been his simply wonderful lyrics, and powerful delivery. he has kept the beautiful voice, and in some ways that has got better. eg in the black rider and alice, that voice is so rich and powerful, there really is little in music to compare with it. it's an instrument as much as a voice, and he inhabits his different characters to wonderful effect. that voice is the reason i will always buy his albums. there's no fix like it. but in his later albums, the voice clouds the lyrics. his tunes have regularly been fairly familiar, it's why his work is thought of as representing americana. he has regularly inserted snippets of popular melodies, or appropriated nursery rhymes, sea shanties, etc, and mutated them to his own purpose. and that purpose has been beautiful lyrics. in the latter albums, especially real gone and this one, the voice, especially in the stomps, is just the growl. he disguises the lyrics so you have less chance of catching them, and what you get is largely a growl and a stomp. a lot of the stomps are fairly similar too. for me, that gets boring quick.

now onto this album. it starts well - chicago is a decent intro track, reminiscent in theme and drive to the classic opening track "hang on st christopher", yet not as crisp, not as inventive. then "raised right men". hmm, i thought. that's "walk away". then "talking at the same time". hmm, i thought. that's "dirt in the ground". "get lost" is "kommienezuspadt" with a layer of guitar on top. as mentioned in chris power's amazon review, satisfied is blatantly "big black mariah", and "kiss me" is "blue valentines". i mean really, these are almost the same songs with different lyrics.

there are high points to the album."back in the crowd" is a lovely song, bad as me is fun, if a little tom by numbers. satisfied has a great line up (les on bass, marc ribot on guitar, and tom singing is pretty much a superband right there, and there's fun to be had in keith playing guitar on a belated followup to not getting any satisfaction with the stones!)

ultimately, it's great to hear tom still going for new stuff. my main complaint is there's not enough new stuff on here. tom's fans (of which i'm definitely one) rejoice that he is always looking forward, and not just going around like a lot of artists who started in the 70s, playing nostalgic greatest hits tours. the problem is this feels like a greatest hits album, except he's chosen a load of his more average songs, and then changed the lyrics. i do wonder if because it's tom waits, and his fans are so notedly rabid, that he could release anything and people will come on here and give it 5 stars (and probably give me the thumbs down). i'm a massive fan of the man, but right now i find his interviews and press releases and awards speeches far more entertaining than his music. i don't blame him for it, he's been in this business for 40 years. i have no real expectation that everything he releases should be as good as his best work. when it was put to joseph heller that he had never written anything as good as "catch 22" since, he simply replied "neither has anyone else". i'll always be grateful to tom for his phenomenal body of work, and will always buy his albums whenever he has the good grace to deliver us another slice of tom, but this will be on the shelf a lot more than it's in the player.

having said all that, god bless tom waits. :)
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Oct 2011 10:01:30 BDT
R. A. Monk says:
Bad(ish) reviews don't tend to do very well around these parts, in terms of positive feedback. So I'm just here to say that this looks like an incisive and perceptive review to me. Thanks for it.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2011 19:14:17 GMT
thedre says:
thedre sez.....turn it up.

Posted on 12 Nov 2011 09:09:08 GMT
oldhasbeen says:
Thanks for a very interesting review. Like you, I'm a big TW fan but not a fanatic - for me, of the post-1987 albums, only "Alice" and "Mule Variations" reach the dizzy heights of the 1970-87 albums.
Having said that, given the reviews of this one, and the appearances of Marc Ribot & Keith Richard, I'll buy this one and give it a good listen.
When's old Tom going to tour England again?

Posted on 12 Nov 2011 19:35:50 GMT
To my ears, his more melodic albums such as Small Change, Heartattack & Vine, and Blue Valentine was when Tom Waits was at his greatest.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Nov 2011 20:07:09 GMT
thedre says:
Check out tunes like Foreign Affairs and Barbershop from Foreign Affairs, Georgia Lee from Mule Variations, Soldier's Things from Swordfish Trombone, Widow's Grove and Tell It To Me from Orphans and The Last Rose of Summer from The Black Rider.
Oh yeah, and definitely get the reissue of One From The Heart with the cover in black trim and shot of the Vegas Street...they added an Empty Pockets suite that is unbelievably beautiful.
And lemme know what you think....

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Nov 2011 20:22:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Nov 2011 20:42:31 GMT
Hello thedre. You talk much sense. I have all the stuff you mention, except The Black Rider. I've got 19 Tom Waits albums so I know what ya on about. It's just that if I fancy a bit of Waits, I almost always head for Small Change and those albums of that era. They are simply beautiful. The post K Brennan era records can be challenging. Nice reply tho mate & thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Nov 2011 20:31:24 GMT
thedre says:
Thanks for getting back. I made a simple little youtube with The Last Rose of Summer as the music. Unfortunately if you just typed the name of the song (also the name of the video) in youtube, you'd get all kinds of stuff.
However, if you typed in sclogse1 , which is my youtube handle, you could find it through that. Worth hearing. Adios.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Nov 2011 20:41:02 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 12 Nov 2011 20:52:18 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Nov 2011 21:15:30 GMT
thedre says:
Amy Lame' on youtube..big gal with glasses...singing...
Amy Lame' author writer and Mayoress of Camden...
so...the Waits connection...?..I betting on human error here....

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Nov 2011 20:28:36 GMT
Well it's either Tom Waits well known knitting fettish, or our Amy's a Jersey Girl. Guess the former myself
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