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FUV's New Dig: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

by Darren DeVivo
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Hypnotic Eye
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Reprise Records


In a time when the "throwback" and the "selfie" have become all the rage, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have released an album that is itself a throwback to the band's early days, and a selfie of what they truly are: A great American rock and roll band.

Hypnotic Eye is the thirteenth studio album from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (not counting live albums, compilations or Tom's three "solo" albums). It comes three years after their sessions began, and four years after their last effort, Mojo — an album of blues-based songs with loose arrangements that allowed the band to stretch out and jam. But on Hypnotic Eye, the songs are tighter and get straight to the point.

This is a lean album where the Heartbreakers get to do what they do best - deliver driving, smart, garage rock and roll, steeped in the American experience. The goal that Tom and the band set out to reach with Hypnotic Eye was to recapture the vibe that the band had on its earliest albums. They achieve this in spades with songs like "Forgotten Man," where the sneer in Tom's voice sounds like it's 1976 once again. The grouchy curmudgeon in Tom is front and center in the bluesy rocker, "Burnt Out Town."

Hypnotic Eye opens with the crunch of "American Dream Plan B," which allows Tom to scoff at the state of the country. Also of note are the driving "All You Can Carry" and "Red River," both of which are pure vintage Heartbreakers. The album is balanced with slower songs like the slinky "Full Grown Boy," where Steve Ferrone trades his drumsticks for brushes, and "Sins Of My Youth," a song which sits in a dreamy bed of Benmont Tench's keyboards.

Besides Tom Petty, on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, the two mainstays in the Heartbreakers are lead guitarist and co-producer Mike Campbell, and keyboardist Benmont Tench. Joining them on drums is veteran timekeeper Steve Ferrone, who came on board in the mid '90s. The bass is handled by Ron Blair, an original Heartbreaker who left the group in 1982, only to return twenty years later. Rounding out the Heartbreakers is rhythm guitarist, Scott Thurston, another industry vet who became a Heartbreaker in the early '90s.

On Hypnotic Eye, these grizzled old rockers prove they can still muster up the grit and bite of straight-ahead American rock as well as they did nearly forty years ago. That's a trend that will never go out of style.

 

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