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Record reviews: ‘Torpedoes’ breaks through for Petty, Heartbreakers
By Dave Marsh
Wilmington Star-News — January 4, 1980
Records are rated from one star to five in ascending order of quality.
TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: “Damn the Torpedoes” (MCA) 3 Stars
This is Petty’s breakthrough disc, and its best numbers, especially “Refugee,” prove that it’s a meaningful commercial milestone. Petty is an excellent songwriter, who synthesizes a Springsteen-like pastiche of influences into something genuinely personal.
The problem, despite this album’s streamlined production by Petty and Jimmy Iobine and sweet singing, is that Petty lacks a killer instinct. There are plenty of tough rock ‘n’ roll attitudes here, but because Petty refuses to fully commit himself emotionally, they remain poses, just another cute kid fronting a very hot band. Which is a shame, because performed with the heart they deserve, three or four of these numbers might be all-time classics.
As it is, they’re as well crafted as any other late ’70s California hard rock, more intelligent than most of the competition but ultimately just as inconsequential.