Review by Blake Britton
Tom Petty can do whatever he wants. The legend has created more than enough wonderful music over the years to last us a lifetime. We should be grateful that the guy still has enough energy to give us records in 2014; a year in which the full-length album is almost a lost art form. But that’s what The Heartbreakers have done consistently since day one. They don’t give a shit. They’re going to make the music they want to make (see 2010’s “Mojo”) and they’re going to make it on their own terms and standards (see 1979’s “Damn the Torpedoes”). With all of this being said, “Hypnotic Eye” almost keeps the ball rolling.
This album is not as consistent as some of the other Heartbreakers records, at least not sonically, but thematically, it’s Tom Petty’s most consistent songwriting in many, many years. There’s a lot of talk about the modern states of music, America, and celebrity on this record. Petty has not been shy about talking about these subjects in previous interviews, especially the ones leading up to this record, which is why I’m so surprised it took him this long to come up with the idea for this record. “Hypnotic Eye” is what 2002’s “Last DJ” wishes it could be.
My only big gripe about this record is that it’s not as return-to-form as it could be. The lead singles, “Forgotten Man,” “American Dream Plan B,” and “U Get Me High” had me hoping this would be a nonstop power record all the way through. The rest of the rock songs on this record don’t hit as hard as I’d like them to sometimes, but that’s usually made up for by the intriguing and stoic Mike Campbell on guitar. But it’s some of the slower songs on this record that bother me the most; particularly the dreadful “Full Grown Boy” which I’m sure will be a smash hit with the retirement home community. For something that was built up to be a straight rock and roll album, the album does have some snooze inducing tracks. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good, they’re just not what I expected.
I will say there are tons of great blues inspired songs that could possibly be outtakes from “Mojo,” the Heartbreakers bluesy 2010 effort. I’m thinking specifically of tracks like “Burnt Out Town” and “All You Can Carry.” The closer to this record, “Shadow People" has a similar theme, but it is incredibly underwhelming for a closing track. I keep wanting something to happen in the build-up of this song while I’m listening to it, but the only thing we get is a stellar, but very short, guitar solo from Mike Campbell. That guy has become the savior of Heartbreakers records over the years.
I wouldn’t want those comments to take away from what this record really is, however. This is still probably going to end up being one of my favorite records of the year. For every snoozer on this record, there are three or four songs surrounding it that make up for them completely. He’s Tom Petty and he’s playing with the Heartbreakers. These guys know what they’re doing. Tom Petty does his best songwriting when he’s angry and inspired and I think “Hypnotic Eye” is the most thematically inspired work the band has done in a decade.
Listen To "Forgotten Man"