Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Anti/Epitaph, 2011)

Tom Waits is one of the most idiosyncratic of all rock ‘n’ roll musicians, and indeed that genre pigeonhole doesn’t do justice to the depth and and breadth of the music he has created over the years. Like he subtitles one of his previous collections, this album consists of “brawlers,” fast paced and hard hitting songs full of clanging percussion and “I just gargled with battery acid” growling vocals. The best one of these may be the astonishing “Hell Broke Luce,” a harrowing anti-war indictment set to a military cadence with lyrics about soldiers who are just trying to get by while desk bound generals plot their lives and deaths. Other fast paced songs are feature rapid fire cadence of vocals in “Chicago” and the clanking, clattering and shouting “Raised Right Men.” Making a break for a new start in life is a repeating theme in Waits’ lyrics and is hitting the road in search of a better tomorrow is the subject of “Get Lost” which also sports some killing guitar work. Strutting with Keith Richards while name checking Mick Jagger is no mean feat either on “Satisfied.” Any song with the title “Bad as Me” can be as imagined: emotional and desperate lyrics, over snarling guitar and insistent percussion. No one is similar to Waits when it comes to wringing the emotion out of a ballad, and that is particularly true of “Last Leaf” which used a final leaf on an autumn tree as an allegory for all of us who are just hanging on. “Face to the Highway” also deals with his travelling jones, but with a forlorn and haunting lyrical sadness. This is a really fine album, filled with lyrics that tackle love and pathos as well as humor and the eccentric. A born original, there is no one quite like Tom Waits, willing to make his own way, speak truth to power and follow his muse to the end. We are all the better for it. Bad As Me -

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