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Tom Waits

Bad As Me (Anti–)

Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 30, 2011

Phases & Stages

Tom Waits

Bad as Me (Anti-)

For Bad as Me, his 22nd recording – 17th in the studio, and first in lucky seven years – Tom Waits colors outside the lines with a grainy, black marker. The 13 tracks are his butcher's dozen of yowling ballads, whiskey poems, and blustery blues aided by a heartbreak posse that includes longtime collaborator Kathleen Brennan and musical henchmen Marc Ribot and Larry Taylor. Waits wastes no time, opening with the ironfisted chug of "Chicago" and arming it with Keith Richards' guitar. Bad as Me proceeds like singing telegrams from his previous albums, using his trademark honk on the title track and on the familiar boozy, elegiac ballads ("Kiss Me," "Face to the Highway," "Last Leaf"). "Hell Broke Luce" sounds like a chain gang jump-rope song, and "Pay Me" is cabaret sentiment with Augie Meyers on accordion. Waits' "Satisfied" is like a piece of custom jewelry in which the setting fits the Stone. Other stone classics include the drop-dead gorgeous "Back in the Crowd" and smoky bittersweetness of "New Year's Eve." Though Waits holds a reserved seat in the small club of artists who don't put out bad albums, the whiff of wild youth hangs around Bad as Me as if it was recorded in back alleys, behind churches, and in bars after hours.

****

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