#8 on the 2011 Musical Bacon Calendar
Bad As Me by Tom Waits
You either love him or you hate him; there is no middle ground. I, for one, love him. Back in 2004, I didn’t care about Tom Waits. I barely even knew he existed. But then I heard the album he put out that year, Real Gone, and was floored that something that sounded like that could have possibly reached widespread, popular release. It boggles the mind. Later that year, I was lucky enough to see Tom Waits live, thanks to my boss who was looking for someone to accompany him to the show. And it was one of the most memorable, moving experiences I’d ever seen. And it remains so to this day.
Bad As Me, the first new-music Tom Waits LP to be released in the last 7 years, is pure Tom. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but Tom’s music is so unlike anything else being released today it feels new. It is brilliant. Horns, cans, drums, guitars, cowbells, whistles, hand claps, and plenty of gravel straight from the rock quarry. Tom Waits is a genre unto himself.
There are a handful of big names that perform with Tom on this album, too: Keith Richards, Les Claypool, and Flea, to name the most recognizable. Keith and Les both play on the video linked above. SO GOOD. There’s quite a bit of variety on this album, all falling into a sub-category of Tom Waits songs. The slow waltz, the urgent violence, the dirty brass. It’s all there. My favorite track on the album comes near the end, “Hell Broke Luce.”
“I had a good home, but I left, right, left. That big fuckin’ bomb made me deaf. DEAF. Left, right, left.”
“Listen to the general, every god damn word. How many ways can you polish up a turd? … HELL. BROKE. LUCE. HELL. BROKE. LUCE.”
It’s one hell of a tune, barked at you like a drill sargeant. Tom does bark a lot, but to those detractors who say that Tom doesn’t sing, you haven’t really been paying attention. Tom’s singing voice is not pretty, but it’s definitely there. And it’s unmistakable (unless you’re looking at a Cookie Monster video, and then you might have trouble identifying Tom Waits in there).
If you’ve ever liked Tom Waits in the past, this album is for you. If you’ve disliked Tom Waits in the past, this album won’t change your opinion. And if you’ve never paid much attention to Tom Waits, it’s about time you did.
9. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
10. The Youth Die Young by Mad Rad
11. Last Night On Earth by Noah and the Whale
12. Codes and Keys by Death Cab For Cutie
13. Valley of the Headless Men by Ravenna Woods
14. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys
15. James Blake by James Blake
16. Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
17. An Argument with Myself by Jens Lekman
18. The Whole Love by Wilco
19. My Goodness by My Goodness
20. My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men
21. Gloss Drop by Battles
22. Showroom of Compassion by CAKE
23. A New Kind of House EP by Typhoon
24. EP by Grouplove
25. Fan Chosen Covers (Best of) by Eef Barzelay
26. TKOL RMX 1234567 by Radiohead
27. Organ Music Not Virbraphone Like I’d Hoped by Moonface
28. Heavy Boots & Underwoods by Ben Fisher
29. The Rip Tide by Beirut
30. Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.
31. I Am Very Far by Okkervil River