Thursday, July 27, 2006

Music Review: Tom Petty

Right then, so cards on the table? I am a HUGE Tom Petty fan. Like, own-the-CDs-but-seek-out-the-vinyl fan.

So, I'm a little biased in this review, because I tend to appreciate the entire catalog of the man's work.

That said.

His last album, 2002's The Last DJ, was Tom and the Heartbreakers railing against corporate music mediocrity, the commercialization of music, iPods, satellite radio, and big huge record companies. It was released in October 2002 by Sony, a big huge record company.

And, quite frankly, it sucked.

It was the first piece of recorded Petty that I ever finished listening to and said, literally, "That sucked."

Now we get, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and amidst declarations by Tom that he's done touring after this year, Highway Companion.

And it is absolutely mesmerizing.

No, really.

I've listened to it maybe 20 times now, front to back (a rarity in the iPod age --- a whole album? Do people do that anymore?) and it's a paean to that most human of experiences, the road trip.

It's an album that is essentially about motion, where the characters are all running from or escaping to somewhere, and it's wonderfully varied, with Petty displaying his knack for immediate characterization and pop hooks.

From the ZZ-Top-esque opening track "Saving Grace", about a woman running from her life's failures, to the ode to Southern redemption "Down South" ("Gonna impress all the women/gonna pretend I'm Samuel Clemens/wear seersuckers and white linens"), there's an edgy feel to the album that permeates every track. Even the ostensibly sweet love song "Ankle Deep" mentions that the father and daughter are still ONLY "ankle deep/in love", which is about 994 times more depressing on repeated listens.

So, we get mostly mid-tempo songs, a few out-and-out rockers, the absolutely gorgeous "Square One" (a sparse acoustic ballad about how sometimes in relationships you have to go through hell to reclaim the spark), and a few Petty oddities like "Jack" (an ominous acoustic swamp-rat missive).

But what's clear throughout is that Tom Petty still has songs to sing, stories to tell, and he knows that sometimes when you've been driving for hours those are the only things that'll keep you company.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone who liked Full Moon Fever, Wildflowers, or Echo. Also, anyone who likes Neil Young, John Hiatt or Lyle Lovett.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who prefer wall-to-wall asskicking rockers, anyone who thinks every Petty album since Damn the Torpedoes was a disappointment, people who dislike "story-character" songs.


Blogger Sara J said...

I have to listen to Petty in secret, since Scott hates him with a white hot passion and if he hears it he won't come near me until the 'noise' stops.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

This, coupled with the fact that Scott does not care for Walter Matthau, is even more evidence in favor of my "Scott is secretly a half-octopus alien cyborg sent to destroy us all" theory.

At this point, it's still a theory. But evidence is mounting.

Hi, Scott!

6:24 AM  

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