Style: A genre unto himself, but compare to Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Captain Beefheart
Top tracks: "Get Lost," "Talking at the Same Time," "Kiss Me"
When we first meet Tom Waits on his new album Bad As Me, he's hopping a train and headed for a fresh start: "Things will be better in Chicago," he croons, but you can tell from his voice that he doesn't mean it. The problems afflicting Waits' characters—losers, lowlifes, sinners like you and me—can't be fixed by a change of venue, something that's particularly true on this, Waits' most unflinching look yet into the face of depravity. The album is all about the cause and effect of wickedness, and while that doesn't necessarily make for an easy listen—the soldier's lament "Hell Broke Luce," in particular, is suitably angry (and includes profanity)—that doesn't make it any less truthful. Waits does lighten the mood with his usual wisecracks, and the music is propulsive R&B. He knows how serious all of this is, though—and it is surely no coincidence that an album obsessed with the severity of evil is almost equally concerned with the inevitability of death.1
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