Long After Dark | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Backstreet Records
Review by Rick Schwartz
The Daily Aztec — December 2, 1982
Here comes some more standard fare from Tom Petty. Once labeled alongside Bruce Springsteen as a glorified street rocker, Petty has fallen into a familiar mold.
Everything about “Long After Dark” is familiar, from the sting of Petty’s Rickenbacker to his whiny vocals. “Long After Dark” is nothing new. Petty has stayed with the same band since his debut and none of its members, nor Petty himself, have encouraged any new directions for this rock ‘n’ roll quintet.
It may be too much to expect anything else. Petty is an endearing character, respectful of his audience, content to give them what they expect. Why take chances?
After all, Petty has never been a substantial composer, but a few of his songs have evolved into rock ‘n’ roll anthems, wrought with the urgency and rawness that embody the very fabric of the genre.
Almost all of Petty’s lyrics deal with variations on the same theme — a hot lover gone cold or connubial uncertainty. Lacking are the universal applications of his rock ‘n’ roll classic “American Girl.”
Most support Tom Petty for his music, not his lyrical content, and “Long After Dark” incorporates the tight party rock we’ve become accustomed to, but it still adds up to little more than another disposable rock LP.
The lone exception where Petty taps directly into the rock tradition is “We Stand A Chance.” Here Petty opens up his vocal phrasing, sounding playfully warm and exhilarating. The chords roll out in a style that evokes the best of rock history.
Still, Petty needs to stake out new directions, both musically and lyrically, if he is to capture a position among our rock ‘n’ roll heroes. He is an eminently talented guitarist wasting away in an overused rock structure.
Since his brilliant debut LP “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” the rock world has expected big things from this southern-fried rocker. Through “Hard Promises” Petty has maintained a thread of interest, but has yet to recapture the power and promise of his debut. If the style of “Long After Dark” is the best that Petty can muster, it won’t be long before he goes the route of many a flash-in-the-pan and fades away.