Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
By Parry Gettelman
Orlando Sentinel — August 16, 1996
★★★★★ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Songs and Music From the Motion Picture She’s the One (Warner Bros.): What’s up with this? Artists are supposed to use soundtrack albums as a dumping ground for their leftovers and B-grade material. Tom Petty drags the Heartbreakers into the studio to record stuff for a soundtrack, and they cough up one of their best albums in years.
The songs on She’s the One represent Petty’s best writing since 1989’s Full Moon Fever. The band sounds re-energized, and the collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, which didn’t always click on 1994’s Wildflowers, seems absolutely natural now.
Warner released “Walls” as the first single, and it’s such a good song, it actually seems like a great idea to have two versions of it here. The first, bigger-sounding recording is a sort of Beatles-Byrds-Traveling Wilburys hybrid with Lindsey Buckingham on backing vocals. The second version is simpler and folkier. There also are two versions of the bittersweet “Angel Dream, one with an understated string trio and another, even lovelier, that’s just Petty, his acoustic guitar, a harmony vocal and almost subliminal organ.
That’s not even the best stuff yet. “Zero From Outer Space” sounds like punk-rock Bob Dylan, complete with raggedy harmonica and a nasty Mike Campbell guitar solo. Petty may belong to the ranks of mainstream rockers, but if this song slips past the genre border guards, the same kids who sang along with Beck’s “Loser” could get off on howling along with the chorus to this.
Most of the songs are Petty’s, but there’s also a lovely yet bitter song by one Beck Campbell (not that Beck) with an unprintable title. The wavery guitar run through a Leslie processor gives a weird Angelo-Badelamenti-thinks-about-The White Album cast to the track – with some Pet Sounds backing vocals for good measure. There’s also an absolutely crunching version of Lucinda Williams’ “Change the Locks.”
The mood changes are deftly handled – for instance, from the slightly psychedelic (a la Wish You Were Here) “Supernatural Radio” to the more typically Heartbreaker-like “California,” in which Petty sings “California’s been good to me/ I hope it don’t fall into the sea.”
The quiet, deliberately paced “Hope You Never” is one of Petty’s best songs ever. The melody contains no huge statements, but there’s something grand about the way the simple verses and choruses fit together that makes you keep hitting replay. The simplicity also give an extra jolt of venom to the sardonic lyrics, which tell a heartless lover: “I hope you never give a damn/ I hope you never lose your perspective/ I hope you never fall in love with somebody like you.” (Plus, how many harpsichord solos do you get to hear on rock records?)
The spottiness of Petty’s last few albums was discouraging. But She’s the One proves, once again, that he’s one artist you can never count out.