Bad As Me 5/5 Among music bores – all of whom are obsessed with Tom Waits – ‘Waitsian’ has become a chin-caressing adjective to describe a certain form of clanking, borderline a-rhythmic horror-soul, thickly iced with impenetrable grit-gargling vocals. Yet on the evidence of Bad as Me, the music critic dictionary will have to be rewritten.
The album opens with a triumvirate of genuinely surprising songs. Lead track ‘Chicago’ is easily the most vibrant, upbeat number Waits has written in a long while, and is followed by the dynamic, almost yearning, toe-tapper that is ‘Raised Right Men’. ‘Everybody’s Talking’, meanwhile, is a vocal revelation, with Waits employing his sweetly feminine higher register. Later, the lascivious, full-on ‘Satisfied’, is built around a glam-rock riff, the accordion-assisted ‘Pay Me’ could be a lost Piaf classic and the downright jolly ‘Let’s Get Lost’ brings to mind a Waitsian remake of ‘Paradise, Hawaiian Style’ (which we’d pay good money to see).
Sure, the slower material is reminiscent of Waits’s ’70s blues-jazz, although now burnished with his raspy beefgrater of a voice. But where his last four albums have sounded like time capsules from a dystopian past, Bad As Me belongs to here and now.