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Petty’s latest lost in the dark
By Ron Yeany
The Daily Collegian — December 8, 1982
“Long After Dark,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Backstreet, BSR-5360
“I’m for standin’ up, I’m for breakin’ free/I don’t want fate handed down to me.” For one of music’s thoroughbreds, tough and lean that is, this seems to be the motto of Tom Petty. Petty, who has not followed conventional paths to fame and fortune in the music business, who has fought with record companies over the prices charged for his albums, and who has fought his way to the top nonetheless, has now issued a reversal in theory.
Long After Dark, while breaking ground musically for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, meanders aimlessly without a thought or purpose. Damn the Torpedoes, Petty’s breakthrough album, established his place among today’s rock stars. The singer seemed to be saying “to hell with conventional ways, with the companies and the establishment, full speed ahead.” Then with his follow-up, last year’s Hard Promises, an almost satirical Petty was pictured on the cover in a record store, ironically checking record prices while he battled the same establishment over the list price of his own album.
Unfortunately, Petty has not moved on, but rather has fallen into that old, over-mined, tired rut of broken love songs. The heart of this new release seems to be found in the cut “Straight Into Darkness,” which is where he ends up after his love has gone bad. For the most part, Long After Dark is long after that darkness has surrounded him.
“You never needed me, you only wanted me around, it gets me down” croons Petty on “Change of Heart.” “A One Story Town,” the hit single “You Got Lucky,” “Deliver Me,” all on side one, continue the anti-climatic theme of breaking up.
The good thing about Long After Dark is that Petty has finally come around as a musician of creativity. We still have the driving guitar that has been a Petty standard, but he has added more depth to his Heartbreakers. “You Got Lucky” begins sounding like the latest synth-rock from The Cars, while the organ plays a large part of “We Stand A Chance.” But the closing track, “A Wasted Life,” shows the most progression of the album, sounding almost tropical at times.
But with all the potential available and undoubtedly at his disposal, Tom Petty, who set his own mold by breaking the rest, has now crushed his own, by releasing a mediocre album or mediocre love songs.