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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Anyone thumbing through Tim Adams revealing interview with Tom Waits in last weeks Observer (23/10/11) should also read the subsequent comments upon it by Waits aficionados who are a particularly articulate bunch. One summarizes his Waits infatuation with the immortal line that "Tom Waits. He's the Dad I never had, the brother who wouldn't play with me, and the sister with the strangely deep voice". You know what he means. Tom Waits is both a one-man history of American music but also a vivid reflection of our lives ribald joys, drunken disasters, tender moments and defeated heartaches. He is a first class honours American maverick and the most genuinely original artist in modern rock music. On "Bad as me" he is back in over powering form and rocking harder than he has done for years. "Anyone who has ever played a piano," Waits has previously stated, "would really like to hear how it sounds when dropped from a 12th-floor window" and on his 17th album he does on occasions make a mighty racket. He is helped in this task by the presence on the album of his wife Kathleen Brennan, guitarist Marc Ribot, Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and a previous collaborator that other old blues reprobate Keith Richards.

The album starts with "Chicago" a roaring blast of horns and fast chops which sees Waits in fine voice and doing a Casey Jones style "all aboard" chant. He follows it by outdoing Nick Cave in the dirty blues stakes with "Raised Right Man" where Waits exclaims "Heavens to murkatroid/Miners to coal/A good women can make a diamond out of a measly lump of coal". Throughout the album Waits serves up a Royal Variety Performance in terms of styles whether it be on the ghostly rolling "Talking at the same time" which is the nearest Waits has come to delivering a falsetto or the whiskey soaked "Last leaf" destined to soundtrack many deep stares into the bottom of a glass where Richards and Waits draw upon all their vast expertise.

In broad terms "Bad as me" is a very approachable and accessible album and certainly those whose "boats are floated" by the experimentation of "Swordfishrombones" with its mix of German cabaret and free jazz leanings may find it too straightforward. Thus for example "Satisfied" is a great rock stomp and will delight live audiences but were it done by anyone other than Waits it could be seen as derivative. Yet as always with the great man appearances deceive. The pounding almost industrial drums on "Hell broke Luce" reveal a blues sensibility that modern music has lacked since Captain Beefheart popped his clogs and the weird imagery of the swirling title track shows his continued ability to challenge.

It is great to see strong song structures back at the heart of his work and when they come in the form of the brilliant "Face the highway" or the gorgeous `Put me back in the crowd" which has been described by Waits as "Elvis meets Jim Reeves" this should be a cause for unbounded celebration. This feeling will be further confirmed after listening to the irrepressible rockabilly of "Get lost" which is almost pure New Orleans funk and guaranteed to storm any party. Waits as ever obliges by giving you an equally exquisite comedown in the form of the classic heartbreak ballad "Pay me" standing in the fine tradition of lonely laments such as "Nobody knows when I'm gone"

Ultimately "Bad as me" is a fiercely intelligent and savvy album which profitably raids the junkyard of American music. Tom Waits is certainly a magpie but he takes this old base metal and forges something that is indefinably his own. This rare ability is fully recognised by his contemporaries where Elton John has recently hailed Waits as "the Jackson Pollock of song" and Neil Young said of him at Waits induction to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame that 'I will say that this next man is indescribable and I'm here to describe him... this man is a great singer, actor, magician, spirit guide, changeling and performer for you.' After a seven year silence the return of Tom Waits with the truly excellent "Bad of Me" brings a warm feeling and the knowledge that the world has just become a significantly better place.
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on 24 February 2012
Having been a Tom fan since the 1970s when Small Change was released, I always look forward to the new releases and am rarely disappointed. Having read a few reviews of this latest album, I wasn't too sure what to expect. Well what an album! Nothing out of the ordinary on the first few listenings and then it begins to hit you. The wonderful rhythms of the opening track, the stomping energy of the next and the wonderful tunefulness of next... and so it continues throughout. So what if some of the tracks remind us of songs gone by, he's not the first artist to rework old ideas and bring fresh energy to them. If you want to try some Tom Waits this is as good a place to start as any. It doesn't happen too often but at the moment,I can't stop playing it. It's always difficult to pick a favourite and I'm sure when I next listen to Swordfishtrombones or Mule Variations etc. I will change my mind,but at the moment this is my favourite Tom album. Buy it and love it.
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on 28 October 2011
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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on 30 October 2015
As a long term fan, I couldn't miss the latest effort of the bard of the lowlifes. This album doesn't disappoint, full of ruvid ballads and contemplative songs.While I like all Waitsonian periods, I feel that his latest production has acquired depth in experimentation and emotional vocabulary, so I give this album full marks. If you know Tom Waits you will find his trademark storytelling and concrete style. If this incredible musician is a first for you, then this is an excellent starting point from where you can move backward to his roots. Wholeheartedly recommended.
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on 22 June 2012
I have to say, its a bummer to write this review. Been a massive fan of Waits since my high school days when I was first exposed to Swordfishtrombones. I still consider that one of the greatest albums of the last 30 years, as is Raindogs and Frank's Wild Years. I think these are absolute stone classics. The amazing thing is Waits has maintained a pretty high standard since '83 when Swordfish came out. Just think of Bone Machine, the incredible combo of Alice and Blood Money, the superb collection of B-sides and outtakes in Orphans... I wouldn't hesitate to give any of these a 5 star rating. And then came this long break with nothing. So when I heard there was a new one, I thought: hell, this is going to be fantastic. He must have been working on it all this time.

Well, I wish it were so. Unfortunately it feels more like Tom woke up one morning and decided to make a record. Nothing wrong with that. But where is the invention, the pure genius of the lyrics, the otherworldly creative flair that we have come to expect from Tom? Where is the carnival? Where indeed... it feels like this man of endless creative ability has run out of ideas, as horrible as that sounds.

It appears there is plenty of energy and commitment but the sheer magic is missing. The great albums were just effortless, this one feels like he is trying to reach a place but just can't make it. I kept listening and listening, hoping for something to materialise out of the murk. Some of the best albums take a while to reveal themselves. But unfortunately it is yet to happen. I DO like Talking At the Same Time. That to me feels like the best song of the album for now. I was disappointed in Hell Broke Luce. With a title like that I expected it to be mighty, but it feels strained and bombastic (scuse the pun). I was hoping for another Cold Water off Mule Variations. What a song that is!

There just isn't a lot here that trips along with effortless grace like the best Waits songs. The thing that bugs me the most is a lot of the lyrics feel sub-standard. One thing we've always been able to count on from Tom is street poetry of the highest order. I just don't hear it here. I WANT to hear it, but I dont. At worst, its annoying, like on Satisfied. I don't get that song at all. I know Richards played on the album, but I dont get the song. I think this is my issue. Most Waits albums feel like they have a theme, a strong thread running through all the songs. Bad As Me just feels like a group of songs chucked together.

One final bugbear. I bought the fancy extended version with the booklet and all. The booklet is great but I felt it was really a bit silly to put a whole other CD out with 3 songs on it. Why couldnt they just tag the extra tracks on at the end for convenience sake? Its a hassle to feed a separate CD in just to hear 3 songs. Not to mention the unnecessary waste of it.
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on 24 October 2011
I have been a Tom Waits fan for many years ever since I heard Small Change. unlike many artists he has never stood still but has evolved musically, mostly with great result and with only the odd let down. His new album, Bad As Me, is a very strong collection that effortlessly fuses elements of different genres such as blues, folk, jazz and rock. From the breezy, exciting opener of Chicago the album sets a high standard and sustains it. There is more blues and folk stylings than usual. The quality of song writing is high (humouress, clever and tragic) and Waits voice sounds better than ever. Stand out tracks include Chicago, Pay Me, Bad As Me, Last Leaf and Hell Broke Luce. The latter track demonstrates incredible invention for a man in his sixties and is a riot. For me the album never reaches the heights of Waits very best work. My favourite albums are still Rain Dogs, Small Change, Alice and Bone Machine. The invention isn't quite there on BAD AS ME and a few tracks sound a bit similar here and there especially the slower tracks which aren't his best. However, its is still a very strong album by an incredible artist and far more accessible and likable than his last studio album Real Gone. Can't wait to see what he does next.
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on 7 November 2011
This is really good, and pretty musical - one to play your friends who haven't heard Tom Waits yet (some of his stuff is not very appealing to Tom Waits virgins). I played it through twice in one sitting - it's that good. So good to have someone who's been around for years and is still coming up with fantastic music and lyrics.
Did I mention that it's really good.......?
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 26 October 2011
It's almost ten years since the double treat of Alice & Blood Money, seven years since he showed us he was still Real Gone, and five years since the cornucopeia of riches hauled from the Waits lumber room that was the 3-CD Orphans. The devoted wanderer in Waitsworld was entitled to ask 'What`s he building in there?' and try not to have too high expectations of this brashly titled new collection.
I knew from the first few bars of the first song on this beautifully produced, superbly packaged (as always) new album that ol' Tom Frost had not let anybody down, least of all himself.
One thing you notice is the sound. There's an open, brazen quality to it, as if the man's proud of these songs and wants you to hear the damn things as clearly as possible. It's a Waits trademark by now to gather around him musicians who play with him rather than merely back him, the sound of each track a world unto itself. It's good to hear such Waits stalwarts as inventive guitarist Marc Ribot and harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite, as well as the mighty David Hidalgo (from Los Lobos) on guitar and Waits' son Casey on drums. None other than Sir Keith of Richards makes several appearances, mostly on guitar, but he chimes in on vocals too on the gently defiant, quaintly elegiac Last Leaf - a far less affectionately shambolic duet than their last one, the amusingly indefatigable That Feel from 1992`s Bone Machine.
Things kick off with the terrific Chicago, a gone-in-a-flash, fast-paced shuffling
shout of forlorn hope:

"Maybe things will be better in Chicago"

Well, maybe. Wouldn't bet on it.
Raised Right Men is marvellous. The great Augie Meyers plays an insistent single two-note chord throughout, and Tom sings his big heart out:

"There ain't enough raised right men!"

There sure ain't.
I've said it elsewhere, but Tom is the most quotable of songwriters, his lyrics never seeming too 'worked on' while still reading like poetry. (For me he beats Bukowksi into a cocked hat.) I like the words to the love song Kiss Me:

I want to believe that our love's a mystery
I want to believe that our love's a sin
I want you to kiss me like a stanger once again

Since meeting and marrying his wife/muse/co-writer Kathleen, he`s been coming up with quite a few of the most affecting, touching, tough-tender love ballads of anyone I can think of. Kiss Me is up there with his best. As is Back In The Crowd, a Spanish-tinged crooner that is as lyrical as Tom gets these days. I say 'these days' but Tom has always been an old romantic, and his love songs are as emotive as anything.
Get Lost is nothing less than Tom Waits channelling an Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent type singer, and the results are electrifying, one of his most memorably unsettling and weirdly droll songs.
Satisfied sounds like nothing less than Howlin' Wolf backed by a hybrid combo of the Magic Band and the Bluesbreakers - now that would've been something! Tom Waits sings the blues, most definitely.
I love Bad As Me, the more I listen to it. It's as good as his most cherishable albums, while admittedly breaking little new ground. But then, why should he do that? In fact, the more you listen the more you hear a leaner, cleaner sound, an accent on melody, and as strong a set of songs as he's given us in years. It's also an album that may well appeal to the Waits neophyte as much as to those of us who've gratefully bought each record, either on LP or CD, as they've appeared over the last forty-odd years.
Waits sings on the glorious track Pay Me:

"They pay me not to come home"

It's another quotable phrase from another fine song, but I don't believe it for a moment. Imagine living with this man. You'd never be bored, that's for sure.

Colossally recommended.
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on 7 November 2011
Gravelly and growly, Tom is joined by Keef Richards on a couple of tunes. The opening track is a cracker and is an instant success. The rest are not quite as immediate but grow on the listener. It may achieve 5 stars with a few more listens.
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on 29 July 2012
This is a good album, but not quite a great one. Tom's voice has always been gruff but now it seems close to having gone completely. The song-writing is as good as ever however - witty and original.
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