Tom Petty’s “Hypnotic Eye” better late than never

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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, who will be in concert Sept. 16 at the PPL Center in Allentown. Photo Courtesy of Big Hassle.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, who will be in concert Sept. 16 at the PPL Center in Allentown. Photo courtesy of Big Hassle.

His first album in four years, “Hypnotic Eye” is what Tom Petty should have given us back in 1996 instead of the so-so “She’s the One” soundtrack (Anybody recall that Cameron Diaz/Jennifer Aniston movie? Anyone?).
“Hypnotic Eye” would have been a very nice follow up to 1994’s “Wildflowers.” In fact, the new song “U Get Me High” borrows a verse from “Don’t Fade on Me” on “Wildflowers.” And with “Hypnotic Eye”’s rocking-out-loud guitars and bass — occasionally accented with fuzz distortion effects, recurring lyrical themes of angst, and a sometimes-snarling delivery by Petty, he could have easily breathed new life into the then-fading grunge movement. Then there could’ve been an electric blockbuster tour with Neil Young, and life would have been awesome.
Altering history aside, “Hypnotic Eye” is better late than never.
Anyone eager to write off Petty, who’s been at this for close to 40 years, will back down (to coin one of his signature hits) at the dry sense of humor of “American Dream Part B.” Offering commentary on Millennials (or maybe Generation Y?), he sings:
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 betting on happiness.
“Power Drunk” has the tried-and-true rock ‘n’ roll motif of calling authority figures on the carpet. “Who’s gonna take this bad-ass down?” is the song’s opening line. But he later sneaks in the hope that “the truth within him makes a good man rise.”
On “Shadow People,” Petty is downright petrified:
That one’s savin’ up water
Got some food stored away
for the war that is coming on the judgement day …
And this one carries a gun for the USA
He’s a 21st century man and he’s scary as hell.
‘Cause when he’s afraid he’ll destroy everything he doesn’t understand.
Well I ain’t on the left.
And I ain’t on the right.
I ain’t even sure I got a dog in this fight.
On other songs, like “Fault Lines” and “All You Can Carry,” he’s disarmingly confessional.
“Full Grown Boy” and “Sins of My Youth” throw curveballs with mid-tempo jazz. “Burnt Out Town” does the same using traditional blues.
The solos by Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell are top-notch throughout.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers appear with Steve Winwood at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at the newly-built PPL Center, 701 Hamilton St. at North Seventh Street in Allentown. Tickets range from $89-$143 and include a copy of “Hypnotic Eye.” Call (610) 347-8499.

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