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Bad As Me

October 21, 2011 | Format: MP3

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By Red on Black TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 24, 2011
Format: Audio CD
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".
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After listening to the groaning beautiful voice on "Dead Man Walking" soundtrack particularly "The Fall of Troy," I purchased my first-ever works by Tom Waits, the double-header release of "Blood Money" and "Alice." Soon, lyrics like "misery is the river of the world;" wild incomprehensible shouts of "Zelbuchlesch!"; "as far as a monkey could climb, the more you see it's tail;" & "everybody row!" incredibly became benchmarks for how far gone & into Waits I became. In fact, so far gone was I that my wife emphatically suggested I move our c.d. player into the cellar.

In "Bad as me, " Waits hammers more nails into the cross on which fans are hooked. "Kiss me" is a beautiful song -- I sensed Waits was singing to the piano that's sobering-up after endless nights of drinking. The wildness of "Satisfied" --doubtless music lovers are never satisfied, more is always desired, and Waits is "grieving satisfaction," & its fairly sensible to believe Mr. Wait's will be "carousin" when he's a "thousand."

'Ya gotta inject some "Bad as me" into the madness of lousy jobs, failed relationships, etcetera, and one cannot but enjoy "Last Leaf," listen to the last gasps of a reflective life hanging-limp upon a branch, laugh when Waits says he's "been here since Eisenhower," and I for one believe the artist has found who "puts flowers on a flower's grave."
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I really wanted to like this new album, hoped I would like, and kept playing it again and again, but every time I felt: I've heard this all before. The same old thing again. Tom Waits doing his drunken sailor schtick, and doing it well ... but it's starting to bore me. On the surface this album "sounds" good and has all the ingredients most fans know and love about Waits and his music. But it's too predictable. Nothing on here surprises me or excites me. As another reviewer noted, previous Waits albums like "Rain Dogs", "Swordfishtrombones" and even "Mule Variations" were classics, packed with memorable tunes. But on "Bad as Me" I don't hear anything remotely as great as the best tunes on those older albums. Maybe some fans will be satisfied with this album, maybe even very happy or ecstatic to hear new Tom Waits songs again. But for me, he is starting to sound like a parody of himself.
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... in other words, it's distilled essence of Tom, and it's pretty much perfect. You can't listen to it (well I can't) without grinning. So THAT'S what he's been building.
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About the time I tired of disco-fied R&R and began listening to Jazz, Delta
Blues and Folk Music, looking for something real, I discovered Tom Waits and have
been hooked for the most part ever since. I must admit though that when this Bad As Me album came out I was thinking ..."ho hum another Tom album do I actually want to get it?" I Know it is heresy but Mule Variations and all since have not done it
for me like some of his earlier work, good but perhaps coasting. BUT(!)I opted for this album mostly out of loyalty and am glad I did. Wow, there are some powerhouse songs on this CD that seem to be more direct and dare I say less "Shticky" and mannered than his most recent CDs. He seems to be more into the music here than trying too hard to create cleverly bizarre characters and stories. The song Get Lost is perhaps my fave here, pure R&R more like you would expect from Chuck E. Weiss, also the Bass and Organ grinding out some whore-house rhythms on Raise Right Men (I hated this song on first listen) are pure genius. Well, I am back in the fold now and hope this is the beginning of a new chapter in the Tom saga, nobody can
rock with the authority of Mr. Waits and he can also write a fairly poignant
ballad when he opts to keeps it real. Still American Treasures, I salute you Mr
Waits and Ms. Brennan
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