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Tom Waits
Bad As Me
Anti/Epitaph

Tom Waits' return with a studio album is a joyful welcome back to one of the veterans of rock. A real man of honour. One of those who grows old (those 60+) and keeps on recording/performing -- with style and of quality. Like Neil Young, Robert Wyatt, Richard Thompson or David Bowie (well, he's had some horrible misses), Brian Eno, to name a few. Anyway, Bad As Me is the return of the man with the signature voice: Waits' vocals (shouting, roaring, howling & growling also included) are so distinct and, uh, different he's got no one else to be compared to but himself (well, sometimes maybe the late Don van Vliet...). Elton John has once said: 'If Jackson Pollack could sing, he'd sound like Tom Waits'.

"Chicago" kicks off; it is a frantic train ride stomp, and a trademark Waits song on the wild side. 'All aboard!', shouts Waits as the song ebbs. "Talking At The Same Time"'s melody somehow reminds me of a calmer, cleaner "Dirt in The Ground" (off Bone Machine). Quite simply elegance. "Face To The Highway" and "Pay Me" are songs in the same vein, and among Waits' gentler, softer moments. Maybe pointing backwards to his 70s, or pre Swordfishtrombones era. Single Bad As Me is real kick-ass, and a true Tom Waits classic. Wild and wonderful. The blue-mood piano ballad "Kiss Me" is another return to the 70s, around Blue Valentine, while the raw blues "Satisfied" is more on the Beefheart trail. Or Waits' own trail. "Hell Broke Luce" is a tough song, while the closing "New Year's Eve" (matched with "Auld Long Syne") is a touching and moving (in the typical Tom Waits way) tale from the dark and weary side of life. With a long line of characters, making you think of a movie script.

The players count of course guitarist extraordinaire Marc Ribot, as well as Tom's son Casey Waits on drums. Casey (now 26) added his services (percussion, hand claps and turntables) to his father's last album, 2004's Real Gone. He was also a member of the Glitter and Doom tour band. Keith Richards adds his guitar picks to a handful of songs, as he's been doing on earlier Waits albums (at least since Rain Dogs), and so do David Hidalgo of Los Lobos (who's also got several Waits records on his CV). Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea appears on one track, and Primus' bassist Les Claypool (he's also got a history with Waits) on another. Then there's some other regulars, such as long-time Waits companion Larry Taylor (bass, guitar). And, last but not least, maybe the most important in the Waits gang: spouse and co-writer Kathleen Brennan.

Bad As Me is a decent album, for sure. However, I do get the feeling that I've heard some songs before, like there's some revisited, recycled stuff. I guess that's the thing with Tom Waits. He sounds like his good old self, as does his songs.

Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Tom Waits articles/reviews: Bad As Me, Rain Dogs.

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