Tom Petty is at the point in his life where he doesn’t really need to release any more records. For over four decades Mr. Petty and his partners in crime, the Heartbreakers, have been cranking out iconic rock and roll with an abundance of hits and the misses falling few and far between. He and the band could call it quits and sail into the musical sunset but lucky for us they don’t. They have cultivated an original sound with roots in Southern rock but it is the Southern California flavor that makes things great. Loaded with jangly guitars, laid back melodies and catchy lyrics Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker’s music has often been copied but never been duplicated.
It has been four years since Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers last graced our ears with new music but that wait is over with the release of Hypnotic Eye. From the very first listen you will be hooked as that familiar guitar sound invades your ear holes and Petty’s unique drawl flows from the speakers. Hypnotic Eye has a classic Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers feel to it fitting nicely amongst their vast musical catalog.
Petty has never been one to write frivolous songs as he tackles the human condition with tunes about life. Sometimes he points his sights on others while other times they are pointed squarely at him. The album kicks off with the chunky rocker “American Dream Plan B”. Petty warbles on about the proverbial ‘American Dream’ and how everybody’ s may be different but we are all fighting for the same things, pretty much. On “All You Can Carry” Petty takes from his own personal experiences with fire as he sings about escaping with what you need. Or is it an allegory for putting your past behind you and forging into the unknown future? Other songs of note are “Forgotten Man” with its non-stop beat and bluesy undertones and the laid back swagger of “Red River". Both tracks are classic Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Standing out as two of the best songs on the record, are “U Get Me High” and “Fault Lines”. The first is a tune dominated by those trademarked jangly guitars as Petty sings about what a woman does to a man. Mike Campbell’s guitar solo flat out kicks ass on this one. The second may be one of the best songs Petty has ever written. The song takes off with a sweet melody and lyrics that touch on the fact that everyone has faults it is how you handle them that defines you.
With each listen, Hypnotic Eye is becoming one of my favorite Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers records. Everything you want and love about the band is on the album as Petty and crew offer up a batch of tunes that are well written and loaded with catchy hooks. While many like to write off older rockers as ‘has-beens’ or ‘purveyors of greatest hits’, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers shove those notions right into their faces. Hypnotic Eye is neither a last grasp for relevance nor an attempt to pad the bank account but shows that after 40 years the Heartbreakers are better than a lot of music out there today.