For those who have not heard Tom Waits’s voice, it’s basically audibly analogous to a wailing ghoul eating gravel topped off with some hot fudge syrup. That’s to say: It’s unique, intriguing and wholly entertaining. Back with Bad As Me, his first album of entirely new material in seven years, the 61-year-old Waits shows he hasn’t lost any of his crazy, irresistible charm.
Starting of with the jaunty brass and violent, almost rushed vocals of Waits takes us on a tour of his enigmatic and still largely indiscernible mind. Throughout the album he spits, croons, screams, laughs and whispers, moving effortlessly between genres and moods.
The bad-assery culminates in the title track, which utilizes a hard-hitting sax, a wistful-but-charged guitar and his signature raspy voice. It feels like a homeless man on Telegraph yelling at you, or a speech from Yoshua, with lyrical gems such as “you’re mother superior in only a bra.” “Hell Broke Luce” brings his energy to a new level with heavy percussion and militant vocals. But bad doesn’t always mean fiery, as Waits shows with ballads such as “Back in the Crowd,” waxing poetic with simple but evocative melodies.
Framed by the guitar glory of Keith Richards (who incidentally plays on the excellent track “Satisfied,” a play on the the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”) and the occasional bass of Les Claypool and Flea, Waits shows off the staying power of his legacy while still managing to define himself as a standout among his peers. For, while Waits was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, he is certainly not planning on simply standing back and letting the past speak for itself. His new album, expansive and brilliant in refining and solidifying his talents, shows off the flair that made him “Big in Japan,” proving that no one is in fact as bad as him.