Tom Waits my have pulled off the greatest recording of his already great career.
Waits has had a habit of producing impenetrable recordings that leave you cold. For me he peaked at Blue Valentine (1978) and then Heart Attack and Vine in 1980 before putting out great records such as Swordfishtrombones (1983) and Orphans (2006). His album with Gavin Bryars where he sings alongside a tramp (Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet) is astonishing too. But there has been much to pass by in between these classics. Alice anyone?
This though finds Waits in stunning form. It is a beast of a record opening on Chicago with a pulsating steam train clatter and the deepest Bass Sax growl you’ve ever heard. “All aboard” shrieks Waits as the 2 minute classic reaches it’s denoument and we the fearful passengers set off on a voyage of discovery that veers from distraught weeping and gnashing of teeth on the amazing “Raised Right Men” with its factory clangings and steam hisses to the downright scary title track “Bad as me” that opens again with that aforementioned bass sax that reminds me of Amy Winehouse’ Back to Black. Hell Broke Luce is simply Waits on steroids. His voice never gravellier.
It’s as if Waits life depemds on this record, so intense is the experience. And yet, it’s tuneful, engaging, funny and enveloping.
Absolutely essential listening.