Spun: Tom Waits

By Garth Paulson

Let me get this out of the way: Tom Waits is the most badass man in music today. Every album he has released feels like it has been made exactly to his specifications, and Bad as Me is no exception. The album feels like it’s coming from a place only Tom Waits has been to — like seeing hell in dive bars, beauty in women and now gracefully growing old somewhere in between.

Bad as Me is a collection of Waits’s first studio material in seven years. He has brought an arsenal of talent to the musical frontlines, including all-stars such as Flea, Les Claypool and Keith Richards. Throughout the album, Waits creates a dingy but beautiful atmosphere with piercing organ stabs, sprinkles of brass, and some of Waits’s signature bar-room poet ballads. His voice, gravelly and tortured on one song, glimmering with hope on the next, fits perfectly with the emotions he is conveying through the words. Every Tom Waits song demonstrates the universal secret of songwriting — you sit down with a guitar or at a piano and just bleed.

On the track “Face to the Highway,” Waits’s refrain is “I’m goin’ away, I’m goin’ away.” Somehow the man has reached over six decades of existence, despite putting his body through a gauntlet of substances and heartache. I think it’s safe to say that Tom ain’t goin’ away for a long, long time.

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