By BRUCE DENNILL
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers endure because they build their music on twin pillars that are unlikely to crack: top level musicianship and a complete disregard for popular mainstream opinion.
Personalities as strong as Petty himself and guitarist Mike Campbell can only have operated as part of a team for as long as they have if there was a good deal of shared vision, which is why a hefty chunk of the sonic template used for Hypnotic Eye will sound familiar to fans who’ve loved the band’s melange of Southern rock and roots music since the Seventies.
For some listeners, this is interpreted as unwillingness to innovate, but Petty, Campbell, Benmont Tench (piano), Scott Thurston (guitar), Ron Blair (bass) and Steve Ferrone (drums) are all musicians regarded as influential in their respective fields – in other words, those in whose footsteps others want to follow. Or, in other other words, they’ve already pioneered something others want a part of, and are only likely to feel the need to update their sound if or when someone else catches up.
American Plan B kicks proceedings off with a simple, powerful beat and a fittingly burly melody. Fault Lines tones down the aural density but has a strong melody before Red River, with its folky hook, announces itself as the high point of the first third of the collection.
Later, there are some tracks (Power Drunk; Forgotten Man) that feel like they were designed to be album tracks – not a hugely surprising discovery from a band who had their heyday when such things were part of the business. That era is further recalled by Sins Of My Youth, which could just as easuly be a new Jagger/Richards composition as the Petty original it is.
Fortunately, the sound of U Get Me High – old-fashioned foot-on-the-monitors rock – doesn’t reflect the annoying text-speak title, and the 12-bar swagger of Burnt Out Town does allow some room in its basic structure for a solo or two (Tench’s piano licks are the best bit).
- American Dream Plan B 7.00
- Fault Lines 7.00
- Red River 7.25
- Full Grown Boy 6.25
- All You Can Carry 6.75
- Power Drunk 6.00
- Forgotten Man 6.00
- Sins Of My Youth 6.25
- U Get Me High 6.50
- Burnt Out Town 6.25
- Shadow People 6.00