Tom Waits - Bad As Me

It's not often that you can say an artist, especially one fondly remembered for past epic successes, actually gets better with age and time. The surviving Beatles tend to disappoint compared to their past works. The Rolling Stones just don't write good music anymore. And well, poor Lou Reed lost some poker game and ended up working with Metallica on the most tragically masturbatory event since Dr. Cecil Jacobson. So, it's a fucking treat, goddammit, when Tom Waits keeps making quality music 38 years after Closing Time set the stage for his greatness. Bad As Me is actually, surprisingly, better than 1999's Grammy-winning Mule Variations. That's saying something, for me at least, because it was Mule Variations that really turned me on to Tom Waits in the first place. It's probably sacrilege to say so, but I didn't hear much of him until then. And once I did, I realized the error of that choice of ways. So, with Bad As Me, Waits creates 14 tracks that are excellent. And the fusion of jazz, funk, rock, and folk that happens here is one that makes a perfect potion. Even the tracks on which Waits sings "falsetto" are incredible.

Waits makes a strong, playful callback on "Satisfied" where he invokes Jagger and Richards. And shows exceptional tenderness on "Kiss Me," a slow-burning, retro, jazz club track. Those are not necessarily the best songs on the album, but they are fine representations of the color and flavor and the undyingly powerful songwriting that this man is capable of. Bad As Me is an album that sets its own tone. It creates its own atmosphere. And it defies distractions. In fact, while writing this review, my friend Jared, of It's A Thing! fame, has called me multiple time for consultations on a plant purchase, as well as to inform me of, first, the existence of a band called Chokebore, and then that they are similar to Weezer. The moral here... Tom Waits will not be denied. If you don't care for Waits, generally, I really recommend giving this album a shot. It has a timeless mix of genres, each of which is executed perfectly when separate and innovatively when blended. Bad As Me is a likely candidate for more awards. But more than anything it is a thank you note, intentional or not, to fans that says "I've not even begun to write my best music." Listen to it below via Grooveshark, and then go get it or download it or something. And listen to his interview with Terry Gross from NPR's Fresh Air in which he discusses his process.

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