Monday, 7 November 2011

Tom Waits - Bad As Me - Review

Due to being born in 1984 there was a lot of great music that I missed when it was being recorded and released, and this has meant me having to play a great deal of catch up. So despite having careers that stretch back many decades, the likes of John Martyn, Roy Harper, Neil Young and John Foxx have only arrived into my musical world over the last couple of years. So now after hearing a lot about this unique musical figure it is finally time for me to experience the wonders of a Tom Waits album. Apart from hearing a few odd songs from his back catalogue, his new album 'Bas As Me' serves as my introduction to his bizarre and excellent music. So if you are also completely new to the joys of Tom Waits then this following review will definitely be of great use to you.

'Bad As Me' is Waits's 17th album and offers a diverse collection of tracks which touch upon various different genres. However Waits makes sure his own characteristics are stamped all over each and every song and turns every genre into his own eccentric musical vision. It impresses right from the beginning with the chugging locomotive rhythms of 'Chicago', which sees Waits growling over jabbing mean-sounding horns, the vocals brilliantly showcasing his gravelly tones. 'Red Right Men' is similarly dark and sees Wait's vocals take on all sorts of strange characteristics, at times even sounding like some old bluesmen hammering out a Cramps cover, topped with some truly freaky organ.

'Talking At The Same Time' is full of smoky mystery, conjuring up images of a tip-toe down a seedy back alley before we get the warped rockabilly of 'Get Lost', a highly enjoyable and fun moment. After an accordian-laden 'Pay Me' and the grizzled croon of 'Back In The Crowd', the eccentric title track offers clattering drunken percussion and more of those sharp horns while a strong Screamin' Jay Hawkins influence runs through the music and was probably in mind while Waits was delivering the demented vocal. Elsewhere 'Face To The Highway' is one of this album's fantastic dusky moments and sees Waits grumble through a laid back yet emotionally uneasy piece of world-weary darkness.

On 'Kiss Me' there's barroom piano, double bass and sparse guitar accompanying Waits on another stand out track where the rough underplayed production adds even more of an edge to the seductive nocturnal vibes of its musical stylings. 'Satisfaction' sees that fantastic growl spring back into its wildest form over the insane gospel-blues stomp of its rhythm before the mood changes again for the lovely 'Last Leaf', where Keith Richards pops up, joining Waits on a touching acoustic reflection of advancing years. 

A completely different turn is taken next as we are treated to the excellent cacophany of 'Hell Broke Luce'. The growl is at its most angry and confrontational as he slams down jagged rhythms, abrasive metal guitar, odd time signature and awesomely absurd lyrics: "what did you do before the war? I was a chef. What was your name? It was Geoff". Powerful anti-war sentiments, talk of "that rancid dinner with the Pope" and hard hitting blasts of gunfire are all present as the album reaches a fantastic high point. Following is perhaps a newly written song so perfect it already sounds like an old standard, the stunning 'New Year's Eve'. Acoustic guitar, accordian and a subtle hint of mandolin accompany Waits as he delivers an all time classic. It's a wonderful ending to a bizarre, eclectic and very well executed piece of work. 

For someone who has been curious about the music of Tom Waits for a while now, 'Bad As Me' has proved to be a most pleasing introduction to an innovative and legendary musical force. Quite clearly this record makes me want to explore his back catalogue further and discover more of the music he has created throughout his long and interesting career. For longtime fans of this artist it's probably better to read a different review of this record rather than this one, since I'm not yet in a position to tell you how 'Bad As Me' compares to his previous work. But for those looking to discover something slightly different to everything else, that is also packed full of well written and high quality songs, this album is exactly that. Be sure to give this record a try because like me, you may end up being truly converted. 8.5

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