Tom Waits - Bad As Me

31 December, 2011


By Harry Dam


It's Tom Waits' 17th album already, and America's favourite art hobo continues to push the boundaries of his voice and music through the trademark growls, howls and bawler ballads. Backed by his wife and long-time collaborator Kathleen Brennan, as well as rock and roll dinosaurs Keith Richards and Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Mr. Waits delivers a record which he calls himself "lean and mean". "Bad as Me" feels like a collection of older songs, covering almost the full range of his career, bar the theatrical experimentation of "Black Rider" and the Dylan-esque debut of "Closing Time". 


"Chicago", a bluesy horn-fuelled track, introduces the album in frantic form, while "Raised Right Men" is an old-school Tom Waits lament on men's failings with respect to their partners. "Get Lost" is Tom's rollercoaster take on Elvis, while the ballads "Pay Me" and "Back in the Crowd" are a welcome return to the dreamy landscape of 2002's record, "Alice".


Title-track "Bad as Me" and "Satisfied" (an answer to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction") are the high-profile songs of the album where Tom's distinctive voice is put to work, but also somehow lacking the cutting edge of the "Swordfishtrombones"/"Rain Dogs" years.


Tom hits his best with "Everybody's Talking at the Same Time", offering a cinematic falsetto an elegant criticism of modern day capitalism and an atmosphere that Angelo Badalamenti would envy. War-themed "Hell Broke Luce" is the most industrial song of the album, reminding what a magnificent storyteller Tom Waits is. 


Mr. Waits also revisits certain older songs in "Bad as Me"; "Kiss Me" being a more optimistic retake of 1978's "Blue Valentines", inviting an estranged partner to keep the fire of a relationship on. And, finally, closing track "New Year's Eve" sounds like a sequel to 1977's "Sight for Sore Eyes" (both share the tune of "Auld Lang Syne" as an outro). However, Tom Waits still sounds as contemporary as ever and although "Bad as Me" will not be remembered as his essential recording it is a robust record that stands up to his golden standards and celebrates his own myth.






Primary Genre: Rock

Subgenre: Indie

Release Date: 25 October 2011

Label: Anti

Influences: Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Louis Armstrong

Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Neil Young

Album Highlights: Chicago, Get Lost, New Year's Eve










"You just gotta love the way Tom Waits evokes deep, visceral feeling on this record. I'll definitely be returning to this for closer examination, meantime I'm feeling a light 7/10"


tom waits



Contributor mini-profile

Harry Dam

Harry Dam

8 Fluffy Reviews
"That second hand living it just won't do"
Mini bio
A sucker for Primaverasound festival, the Guardian, Larry David, Mad Men. Old enough to have seen PJ Harvey in Rodon back in, ahemm, 1995. Martial arts hopeful, kiteboarding trainee, ex-banker, havouza-maker, professional procrastinator.  
Favourite Bands / Artists
Yo La Tengo
My Bloody Valentine
Leonard Cohen
The Magnetic Fields