Consistency marks ‘Dark’
By Jeff Callan
The Miami Student — November 19, 1982
In last year’s UNABRIDGED, I chose Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Hard Promises as the best album of 1981. Although their new release, Long After Dark, isn’t this year’s best (that honor goes to Costello’s Imperial Bedroom), it’s more consistent than their last effort.
Not until “A Wasted Life,” the ballad closing side two, does the album slow down at all. The frantic bitterness on Dark is a definite change from the brooding mood of the last album. Petty’s lyrics are those of a man trapped by his emotions. And he’s pretty maddened about his inability to escape.
On the album’s lead cut, “A One Story Town,” Petty tackles the frustrations of a dreamer living in a small town:
Oh I’m lost in a one story town,
Where everything’s close to the ground,
Yeah, the same shit goes down,
Nothing turns around
It’s a one story town.
He wants out and Petty’s sneering vocals let one know it as much as his lyrics.
The first single from the record, “You Got Lucky,” runs the Heartbreakers’ electrified folk rock head-on into the Cars’ synthesizer pop. The result appears Car-ishly cold-hearted. Petty’s leading man doesn’t seem to care if the girl walks away.
But Petty has an underlying tenderness — this guy has been hurt by his girl and has decided that he won’t be hurt again. He really doesn’t want her to leave but he can’t tell her. Once again, he’s trapped by his feelings.
Somehow, Petty manages to wrestle free of these emotions long enough to produce one, somewhat upbeat cut, “We Stand A Chance.” But he’s still not sure of himself.
I could be wrong, but you never know,
We could stand the chance of a real love.
This song features the most inspired performance on the LP by the Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell’s guitar and Benmont Tench’s keyboards make this song stand out above the rest — no small feat on this album.
Long After Dark will undoubtedly be an AOR staple for the next six months. But unlike the megaplatinum corporate rockers, Petty and his band show depth and emotion. And also unlike those corporate rockers, they deserve their place at the top of the charts.