Listen to the New Tom Waits Album, ‘Bad As Me,’ Free for a Limited Time

This week Tom Waits released his first stu­dio album in sev­en years, and it does­n’t dis­ap­point. Bad As Me, writes Will Her­mes in a four-star Rolling Stone review, may be Waits’ most broad­ly emo­tion­al album to date: “Cer­tain­ly it’s his most sharply focused record since the game-chang­ing tag team Sword­fishtrom­bones and Rain Dogs decades ago.” You can judge for your­self: For a lim­it­ed time, Nation­al Pub­lic Radio is offer­ing a sneak pre­view of the com­plete album.

Bad As Me is more acces­si­ble than many of Waits’ albums. As his long-time ses­sion gui­tarist Marc Ribot told The New York Times, “On this record it was less, ‘O.K. let’s be super rig­or­ous and cre­ate music com­plete­ly with­out prece­dent,’ and more just ‘Let’s rock the house.’ ” The title track is a good exam­ple. It’s a rol­lick­ing blues stomp, with Waits chan­nel­ing the ghost of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as he shouts:

You’re the head on the spear
You’re the nail on the cross
You’re the fly in my beer
You’re the key that got lost
You’re the let­ter from Jesus on the bath­room wall
You’re moth­er supe­ri­or in only a bra
You’re the same kind of bad as me

On a more seri­ous note, Waits sings of Amer­i­ca’s infan­tile pol­i­tics, its mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic quag­mires, and the gen­er­al break­down of dis­course in the melan­choly “Talk­ing At The Same Time”:

A tiny boy sat and he played in the sand
He made a sword from a stick
And a gun from his hand
Well we bailed out the mil­lion­aires
They’ve got the fruit
We’ve got the rind
And every­body’s talk­ing at the same time

Waits is joined by a stel­lar group of back­ing musi­cians, includ­ing Kei­th Richards on gui­tar and vocals, David Hidal­go on gui­tar, and Flea on bass. Bad As Me comes in two ver­sions: the stan­dard edi­tion, with 13 songs, and the deluxe edi­tion, with 16. You can hear all 13 tracks from the stan­dard edi­tion on the NPR web­site, and fol­low along with the lyrics on

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