Tom Petty’s latest
By Mark Punders
Technology News – May 6, 1985
Southern Accents, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on MCA Records.
On his previous five albums, Tom Petty has played grassroots, Sixties-based rock ‘n’ roll (with a guitar sound inescapably compared to the Byrds’) with traditional boy-girl lyrics. Both Petty’s style and his subject matter vary more widely on Southern Accents, his latest LP.
As the album’s title and cover (Winslow Homer’s 1865 painting “The Veteran in a New Field) suggest, a Southern theme threads its way through the record. The album opens with “Rebels,” a rocket in Petty’s trademark chiming wall-of-guitar style (with longtime producer Jimmy Iovine) about a man “born a rebel, down in Dixie;” a similar character washes up on the beach in “Dogs on the Run,” another anthemic rocker. “Spike” is an instrumentally spare country shuffle in which a Southerner amusedly observes a punk — mockingly commenting, “Boys, we got a man with a dog collar on/Y’think we oughta throw ol’ Spike a bone?” “Southern Accents” is a string-backed piano-and-vocal ballad which laments, “I got my own way of living/But everything is done/With a southern accent/Where I come from.”
Petty experiments stylistically in the three songs cowritten and coproduced with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” the first single, is danceably rhythmic techno-pop, with hypnotically buzzing sitar, reverberating drums, and a well-placed cello part. “It Ain’t Nothing to Me” is hard soul, while “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” is pop-tinged R&B in the spirit of Otis Redding.
With all this, plus a midtempo rocker, “Mary’s New Car,” and a ballad, “The Best of Everything,” Southern Accents has something to offer a wide variety of pop music palates.