Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ masterful new record, “Hypnotic Eye,” lives up to its name.
It finds the legendary rocker in fine form. It’s a mesmerizing blend of well-crafted, lo-fi rockers and ballads that are meticulously sequenced.
The first four songs build on each other and hook the listener right away. “American Dream Plan B” is a punchy, no-nonsense rocker while “Fault Lines” and “Red River” are among the album’s highlights.
“Fault Lines” is Petty’s terrific shot at psychedelic rock. It’s an infectious number, energetic from the get-go, with the rhythm section blasting away and long-time Heartbreakers lead guitarist Mike Campbell adding a series of fierce guitar solos to the mix. It’s also an example of the lyrical prowess displayed throughout the album: “See those fault lines laid out like land mines / It’s hard to relax.”
“Red River” is a quintessential Petty classic, a beautiful ballad with a lovely lull midway through that is followed by yet another Campbell guitar outburst. And “Full Grown Boy” transitions beautifully from “Red River.”
The next few tracks on the album are solid, but unspectacular. “All You Can Carry” is an intense rock number while “Power Drunk” is a Petty screed against the wealthy, or, more specifically, the 1 percent. In interviews, Petty has stressed the political themes of the record: income inequality, his issues with sex abuse within Roman Catholic Church and what he sees as the gluttony of the wealthy in the United States. “Forgotten Man” is another up-tempo highlight, with some, frankly, bad— riffing action and guitar interplay between Petty and Campbell.
But the album’s standout is the ninth track. “U Get Me High.” A fantastic, mind-blowing groove, it is a strong contender for song of the summer, if not the year. Everything about this song works. The lyrics are fabulous, as always: “Every bad dream comes my way / Turns to smoke on closer inspection.” The rhythm section is locked in, and the organ flourishes perfectly complement the fiery riffs of Petty and Campbell. The album’s closer, “Shadow People,” is an atmospheric, bluesy jam with Petty finding room for yet another political rant against the 1 percent.
“Hypnotic Eye” is a hell of a rock-and-roll record. “Fault Lines,” “Red River,” “U Get Me High” and “Shadow People” are the highlights. The songwriting is stellar throughout, and the riff work and rhythm section are on point as well. It’s deservedly earned Tom Petty his first Billboard 200 No. 1 record. While rock seems to be on the outs today, hopefully the success of “Hypnotic Eye” is indicative of a greater, forthcoming trend.
Alternative and classic rock can do well, so long as the tunes work as well — or close to as well as Petty’s do here. Truly, it is you, Mr. Tom Petty, who has gotten us the listeners, high, through a bona fide brilliant album.