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Tom Waits, ‘Bad as Me’ (Anti-)

It’s rare to call anyone’s 17th album urgent, but it feels like rocking fast and getting to the point never even ?occurred to Tom Waits before now. Bad as Me burns at fuse speed, beginning with “Chicago,” which sounds like it starts in the middle, and the heart-pounding “Raised Right Men,” which flashes horror-organ stabs that feel like cattle prods. This also might be the first Waits record you have to rewind to catch all the words, especially on the amazing foxhole journal “Hell Broke Luce”; excerpts include: “That big fucking bomb made me deaf, deaf,” “Sergio’s developing a real bad cough,” “I left my arm in my coat.” An unfortunate side effect is that the ballads are dippier than usual — and the best one by far (“Tell Me”) is a deluxe-only bonus track.