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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