Scrolling Headlines:

Author, poet and ex-con gives talk on criminal justice reform -

September 29, 2016

Israeli writer Ari Shavit speaks at Integrative Learning Center -

September 29, 2016

Alex DeSantis continues strong play for UMass men’s soccer as season reaches midway point -

September 29, 2016

Andrew Ford looks to continue to lead UMass football’s torrid offensive passing attack -

September 29, 2016

Sunset Grill and Pizza adjusts as a new restaurant in Amherst -

September 29, 2016

UMass field hockey falls 8-1 to No. 1 UConn -

September 29, 2016

Offensive-oriented practices hold high hopes for UMass women’s soccer with A-10 opener Thursday -

September 29, 2016

Hyper-stress on college campuses: a culture of high achievement leads to increased rates of mental illnesses -

September 29, 2016

Race of candidates should not affect voter turnout -

September 29, 2016

Students share what keeps them happy during the fall -

September 29, 2016

Harvest’s millennial-pandering replacement to Chameleon Cold Brew leaves caffeine fans at a loss -

September 29, 2016

Guide to fall 5K races and beyond -

September 29, 2016

UMass Votes Coalition hosts voter registration event -

September 28, 2016

Brettell presents on U.S. immigration policies -

September 28, 2016

UMass field hockey team seeks revenge against undefeated UConn -

September 28, 2016

UMass running back Marquis Young looks to build off momentum gained against Mississippi State -

September 28, 2016

UMass hockey announces captains for 2016-17 season -

September 28, 2016

Andy Isabella finds his niche within the UMass football offense -

September 28, 2016

The EpiPen Crisis: How did this happen? -

September 28, 2016

Cymbals Eat Guitars evolve and impress on “Pretty Years” -

September 28, 2016

Waits stays in step with “Bad As Me”

Facebook

Facebook

Nearly 40 years after his debut album, Tom Waits has seemingly not lost a step. After seven years of not releasing any new material, Waits’ new album “Bad As Me” hit the music circuit in late October to solid acclaim. With a blend of jazz, blues and R&B, “Bad As Me” provides for an accessible album that also maintains Waits’ signature growl and experimental style that have made him a revered figure in the underground music scene.

The album opens with “Chicago,” a steady-paced song accompanied by a harmonica, which gives the song a blues-like feeling and still packs a punch. Chicago is the home to its own style of blues music that has seen such artists as Buddy Guy, Jimmy Rogers, and the father of Chicago blues, Muddy Waters. After five songs that grab the listener’s attention, Waits slows down the tempo with the somber “Pay Me,” a song that emits feelings of grief and loneliness. “Pay Me” is followed by arguably the best track on the album, “Back in the Crowd,” a slow tune accompanied by soft guitar playing. The rest of “Bad As Me” is characterized by slower tracks that give an emphasis to Tom Waits’ distinct singing style, displaying the emotion and energy that he puts into his albums. Only three songs go past four minutes, but that doesn’t indicate that the album lacks substance; many of the songs are ballad-like in structure and lyrics.

One of the best parts about this album is the different instruments that are included, and the guest musicians that are featured, notably bassist Les Claypool of Primus fame, bassist Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and guitar hero Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Flea lends his talented bass playing skills on two tracks, “Raised Right Men” and “Hell Broke Luce,” giving both songs an added rock feeling. Keith Richards plays guitar with Waits on four tracks, and is an accompanying singer on “Last Leaf,” a track with excellent poetic lyrics. His backup vocals compliment the harsh growl that Waits is well known for. Waits included a variety of instruments on this album including the harmonica, the accordion, the sax and a number of percussion instruments that give “Bad As Me” a great sound.

Waits has always been known for his unique and indefinable style, and oddly enough has done very well in other countries; by comparison his albums have peaked higher on the UK’s Album Chart than the US Billboard 200. But this past year, he earned a spot in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, being inducted by legendary songwriter Neil Young. Even though he has not achieved the commercial success that many of his contemporaries have and receives less time on the airwaves and in the press, Waits has developed a devoted following due to his signature style, which is simply being who he is. One almost gets the feeling that Waits’ music gets around by word of mouth rather than mainstream advertisement.  In a way his outsider persona is not a negative; Waits only has to write and compose for his fans and doesn’t have to look for praise from mainstream critics. His lyrics are often subdued and are like a gothic novel condensed into a few short stanzas.

While he has blended different styles of music together, it is nearly impossible to box Waits into a specific genre, and perhaps that is his one of his goals when he is writing music. If Waits can’t be labeled into a specific genre, then people don’t have a reason to grumble when he doesn’t adhere to the rules. “Bad As Me” incorporates his own blend with somber ballads. The album is not overly produced, probably due the fact that Waits’ producer is his wife Kathleen Brennan. There is no filler on “Bad As Me” and every song fits perfectly in its spot.

Adam Colorado can be reached at gcolorad@student.umass.edu.

Leave A Comment