Ever since Tom Waits dropped
the jazz-bo Small
Change piano man routine, his work has become a cheap carnival of souls
haunted by chain-rattling characters as brashly disturbing as his claustrophobic
arrangements and melancholy melodies.
Stones-y blues, Brechtian cabaret and Beefheart-ish
avant-workouts are so much a part of Waits’ tangle
that after this review we need not mention them again. They’re in Waits’ dog
house and wag their collective tail every time the master speaks brusquely.
Co-written and produced by his missus Kathleen Brennan, Waits’ songs – Bad as Me included – find their center
immediately and stick like a record’s skip. The insistent mess of percussive
banjo, oinking guitars and huffy harmonicas that is
“Chicago;” the wheezing organs, steel wool drums of “Raise Right Man; the
tinkling ghost piano and whammy bar’s bend on the softly spun “Talking at the
Same Time;” onto these Waits coughs and wheedles while espousing his delirious
gospel’s daily absolutions.
On “Raised Right”, he’s proud
to plead to extol the virtues of a good woman who can make a diamond from a
lump of coal while on “Same Time,” his freakish falsetto can be heard
politicizing about the rich getting richer and the poor getting bloodier. “Get
Lost” finds a vocally trembling Waits and company (which includes Keith
Richards and Les Claypool amongst other Waits stalwarts) re-imaging “96 Tears”
as a Suicide song.
Like every great Waits album,
there’s a softly Irish seasick shanty as heartbreaking as a Montgomery Clift glance and as melodic as any Sammy Kahn ballad – this
time it’s the perfect album closer “New Year’s Eve” which quotes “Auld Lang’s Syne” so seamlessly, it’s as if Waits penned it himself.
DOWNLOAD: “Back in the Crowd” “Bad as Me” “Kiss Me” A.D. AMOROSI