Sixty two years old. It’s crazy to think Tom Waits is that old or that young really. It’s crazy to think of him as more than a moment in time, like he should be measured in empirical units or unique increments of time. Thankfully, he’s still writing fantastic songs and inspiring the downtrodden, derelicts and brokenhearted. There’s so much to love about the new Tom Waits record, Bad as Me, that it’s hard to put it into words (and I really don’t want to). But the Spanish guitar, the stomp and clank percussion, and the way he’s continued to develop his collaborative relationship with Kathleen, Richards, Ribot and Hidalgo are impressive. The tasteful way Waits handles the evolution of the opinion and situation in Iraq and Afghanistan (compare the mood and heart of “Hell Breaks Luce” and “Day After Tomorrow”) shows he’s a man with his finger firmly resting on the pulse of humanity, not just a talented eccentric.
If we weren’t a Canadian content source, Bad As Me would easily be in my top five favorite records of the year (and to give Anti proper credit, William Whitmore’s Field Songs would share the same elevated status), but today is about more than a single record, it’s about a career that has shown Waits to be without fear, regret or equal. A career of balance, the knowledge that “if I exorcise my devils, well, my angels may leave too.” Happy birthday, Tom. Oh, and thanks for everything.