From the steampunk-sax honk that opens "Chicago," Tom Waits' first album in seven years comes on like a locomotive heading straight into no-man's noir territory. Waits even yells "all aboard!" like a caffeine-fueled conductor leading passengers to their one-way destinations. In other words, it's business as usual for the boozy, bloozy singer-songwriter on his 17th album. Bad as Me creaks and crawls in all the right places, as Waits turns every corner with an ounce of hesitation mixed with dread and anticipation. On "Get Lost," he and his band work up a rockabilly shuffle that sounds like an invitation from a nightclub on the wrong side of town. The end-of-the-world ballad "Pay Me" drips with despair. And the title track blissfully tangos to hell and back. There's no turning away from the album's dark and twisted pull. — Michael Gallucci
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