New On Record: Is Tom Petty treading water?
by Bill DeYoung
Gainesville Sun — August 2, 1996
‘SHE’S THE ONE’ | Soundtrack/Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — Warner Brothers
Last year’s boxed set illustrated the dynamics in Petty’s music over the course of 20 years. How sad to tack this album to its coattails, because it shows that Gainesville’s “Gone Gator” has settled into a rut of generic, cookie-cutter music making — and although there are flashes of the old fire, for the most part it seems to have been extinguished by … time? Complacency? Easy money?
“She’s the One” is the soundtrack to the upcoming romantic comedy by Edward “The Brothers McMullen” Burns. Ten of its 15 tracks are used in the movie, and two of those are brief instrumentals. The first song (and first single), “Walls (Circus),” has all the empty pop sentiments and low-fat hooks we’ve come to expect from Petty since he hit paydirt with “I Won’t Back Down” in 1990. Like nearly everything he’s done in the wake of that luxury liner, this album has lots of songcraft and precious little heart.
There are a couple of nice exceptions. “Climb That Hill,” with Mike Campbell’s rheumy guitar following Petty’s vocal up and down, has a charming melody and an unexpectedly bright chorus; “Supernatural Radio,” although it drags on for too long, has a similar melodic landscape — and unlike so many of Petty’s newer songs, its final destination isn’t trumpeted in the first few bars. “Hung Up and Overdue” is an adenoidal Beach Boys sendup.
Otherwise, the production (by Petty, Campbell and Rick Rubin) rends the music essentially flat and lifeless, with Petty’s voice way out front and everything else shoved off to the side. The intended intimacy of “Angel Dream” and “Hope You Never” is buried by the singer’s smug up-close delivery.
Yet another hard promise unfulfilled.