Living Like Refugees: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2014

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Hypnotic Eye, the latest from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, is a variety pack that works wonderfully well.  From blues to raunchy guitar through regular rockers to some surprises—this is as solid an album as any group can muster.  Anyone expecting Damn the Torpedoes, though, should wander off elsewhere. This is very much Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2014, complete with the influences and experience they bring with them to this effort. That is a very good thing.

These are tunes that are clearly Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the band that put out Mojo and had the influences of several decades in the business. Foremost of these fused, cogent songs is “All You Can Carry” which deals with the whole issue of legacy and renewal:

“Take what you can,

All you can carry,

Take what you can

and leave the past behind.

We’ve gotta’ run.”

The image is of someone grabbing a few things and running from a home as a brush fire encroaches on that life.  Regardless of what the song's actually about, it’s a damn fine metaphor for the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers who caught it for releasing the blues-heavy Mojo in 2010. It’s not 1979 and they are not those musicians anymore. The blues on Hypnotic Eye is actually more hardcore than it was on Mojo.

Fault Lines Appear

“Burnt Out Town” begins like a serious-as-heck John Lee Hooker number, and the music continues that way though the voice becomes unmistakably Petty’s.  The rest of the songs range from blues—of course—to the opposite end of the spectrum, to those that sound like they came from George himself. Whether the homage is intentional or not, they are beautiful songs. “Sins of My Youth” and “Fault Lines” would have been amazing George Harrison songs, but they must settle for being amazing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ tunes.  There are other great influences as well.

No wonder too, Petty alone has gone through some stages since the early albums.  A stint with the Travelling Wilburys may have added some nuances to the band’s sound. Most of the songs (jazzy, mellow numbers like “Full Grown Boy” aside) have a raunchy, blues-guitar that is clearly indicative of what Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are in 2014.  This is who they are. Like it or not, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have matured a bit and sound different.



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