3 Tom Waits - Bad As Me

The big bad wolf is back.

In his first proper studio album since 2005's Real Gone, Tom Waits is better than ever. A manic shuffle starts it off, "Chicago," in which Waits dares himself to stick around, but as he says, "this bird has flown from it's cage."

Tom has been crafting his own style of blues since 1973's Closing Time, and scaring children since 1992's Bone Machine, and he's almost become a legend of folklore. Waits marches to his own drum, and you either love him or you hate him.

Bad As Me is damn near perfect. As always, Tom, and his long time partner/wife, Kathleen Brennan, experiment with different tempos and styles, but always include a little clang, boom, stomp. Guitarist Marc Ribot returns to help out, thankfully, because he makes Waits even better, and even scarier. "Talking at the Same Time" is a drunken cabaret of complaints that Tom pulls off without seeming like he's lecturing us. "Get Lost" sounds like dead Elvis.

All the songs are expertly arranged, tightly composed, and so full of purpose. Perhaps the best song on the record, "Face To The Highway" houses incredible lyrics, something Waits always has been great at: "Devil wants a sinner, sky wants a bird, the table wants a dinner, and the lips want a word." The title track, "Bad As Me," is downright awesome, and although you feel in cahoots with Waits at this point, the thumping piano keeps you looking over your shoulder.

There are some heartfelt moments as well, "Last Leaf" is an ode to his longevity of sorts, a sweetly sung acoustic track with a sense of humor and a famous guest vocal. The albums final track "New Year's Eve" he remembers a party turned intervention, and a brilliant chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" makes it sound like an old song you've heard a million times, because, well, you have.

I hope Tom Waits never stops making music, and if Bad As Me is any indication, he does too.

Download: "Chicago" - "Face to the Highway" - "Bad as Me"