Hypnotic Eye, the new studio album from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers is a shot across the bow to those who think Petty maybe thinking of taking the foot off the pedal. This album sees the band more focused on the melodic, pulsating rock and roll that has made them so widely loved and respected. Many have seen it as more of a return to the spirit of Damn The Torpedoes but it's impossible to compare those two albums or that period of time. Petty's songwriting is at it's best when it's reflective and imbued with passion and defiance and this what dominates this Hypnotic Eye. This style also opens up the possibilities for guitarist Mike Campbell who is one of the best rock and roll guitar players of the last 40 years, capable of Chuck Berry style runs and slashing stadium solos. The rest of the rhythm section know their roles, what can you say about Benmont Tench, perhaps the greatest complement I can pay is that I rate him alongside Garth Hudson as one of the greatest keys players to ever grace the stage. He is inventive and soulful all the while being unobtrusive but you always know he is there.
American Dream Plan B sets the scene, it's a statement of what to expect, a lean lithe opening salvo. Petty's protagonist is defiant but Petty adds a sense of impending defeat, a sense that life today is veiled in uncertainty,
Well my mama's so sad, daddy's just mad
Cause I ain't gonna have the chance he had
My success is anybody's guess
But like a fool I'm bettin on happiness
Fault lines is soulful with a latinesque beat, drummer Steve Ferrone is given plenty of space to create a cavernous drum sound. Mike Campbell delivers a Jimmy Page like guitar solo, screeching and scratchy. Petty is in wisdom mode, he is still doing it, he may stumble but he keeps going.
On the high wire, above the wildfire
An old acrobat
On faulty cable still his able
Not to fall flat
Red River sounds like a throwback to the Wildflowers era, more straight ahead rock and roll, it's a tale of southern mystique, black cat bones and gris gris sticks, Petty is a born storyteller it's a skill that never diminishes he always creates a fresh canvas. Full Grown Boy takes things a slower jazzier pace, it's got a New Orleans feel. All You Can Carry is a sinewy beast, like Red River it's a darker tale, a sense of danger is an eminent presence. Punch Drunk is Petty at his most defiant, this track has a distinctive 70's rock feel, it has a lean rhythm.
Pin a badge and a man begins to change
Starts believing that there's nothing out of his range
You and I are left in the wind
In the wake of a rich man's sin
Sins of my youth is another reflective tale, where Petty once wrote of escaping small town life and wanting more he now views the world from a place of well work experience, his a bit battered and bruised but stronger for the blows.
You will find no wicked way in me
Look me over, you will see
You will find no weary change
I'm worn and wounded, but still the same
Oh, let me tell you the truth
I love you more, than the sins of my youth.
Bold moves that is the modus operandi of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and this album is bold and upfront, leaving it all on the line. I hope Petty overcomes his aversion to flying and gets down to Australia I would love to see this album performed live.