Petty’s pessimism passes
By Tim O’Brien
The Aquinas — November 19, 1982
When it comes to new Tom Petty albums, the waiting is the hardest part. But Long After Dark, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ latest release, is here at last — and it sizzles!
Unlike their last album, Hard Promises, Long After Dark is new in every sense of the word. There is a new energy to the music, a new use of the synthesizer and, most surprising of all, a new attitude in the lyrics.
Petty’s pessimistic past is apparently behind him, and his words reflect a more positive view toward life. “There’s been a change of heart,” he sings with renewed vigor. The change is not quite complete, however, and Petty’s optimism is a cautious one at best.
Each song on the album crackles with an intensity sorely missed on Hard Promises. Only “The Same Old You” doesn’t soar with an incredible amount of electricity, probably because this isn’t the same old T.P.
Guitars, as always, play a key role in driving the music. Mike Campbell weaves a scorching guitar line throughout the album, especially on “Deliver Me.”
The biggest surprise to hard-core Petty fans, however, may be the use of a synthesizer in many of the songs. Long After Dark is the first Petty album to use the electronic keyboards.
“You Got Lucky,” the current single, steals the synthesizer sound from the Cars’ “Touch and Go.” Although an obvious borrowing, Petty’s song is a vast improvement over the Cars’ rather tepid effort.
“A Wasted Life” is the album’s mellow closer and the most textured use of the synthesizer on the l.p.
Side one’s first four songs are dynamic, as subtly thundering drums combine with scintillating guitar playing for maximum effect. As always, the sound of the Heartbreakers is smooth, potent and professional.
Long After Dark is a collection of powerful songs, each with its own special energy. As an album, it is better than 1980’s Damn the Torpedoes, although that release contained Petty’s three greatest songs, “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” and “Here Comes My Girl.”
The biggest problem facing Petty in the future is to conjure up a new album even better than this one. After all, anything less would be heartbreaking.