Review by Jon Caramanica
The New York Times — June 13, 2010
TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS | “Mojo” (Reprise)
Two years ago Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took an unexpectedly triumphant spin through the Super Bowl halftime show, a forceful reminder that this long-running roots-rock band, which can appear modest from a distance, still knew how to thrust.
But “Mojo,” the band’s first album in eight years, suggests it has forgotten the vigor of that moment. Here the group is in a relaxed mode. How relaxed? First off, enough that no one vetoed the idea of including a reggae song, “Don’t Pull Me Over,” on which Mr. Petty applies his nasal drone to pleading, “Don’t pull me over/Mister policeman/What I’ve got to do won’t hurt anyone,” while the band mimics a sluggish Jamaican-bar-band vamp.
But that’s the only stylistic stretch on this album, and it turns out that everywhere else casualness serves this band well. “U.S. 41” is a wistful, Guthrie-esque work song. “Lover’s Touch” is a lazy, appealing blues number, and “Candy,” which ambles aimlessly and essentially without topic, still sounds purposeful, especially with Mike Campbell’s slick guitar work.
In the downtime since the last Heartbreakers album, Mr. Petty rustled together his first band, Mudcrutch (which shares two members with the Heartbreakers), to record an album, which was modest and ragged in the same way that many of the songs on “Mojo” are.
So while there are still nods to the Heartbreakers’ s 1980s bigness here, and to the bigness of others, they’re offered in an offhand style. “The Trip to Pirate’s Cove” is slow country-rock in an Eagles vein, and on a pair of soft and temperate tracks, “Something Good Coming” and “No Reason to Cry,” Mr. Petty’s vocals veer toward Bob Dylan abstraction.
Only in a few spots does Mr. Petty sound muscular, as if he wants to hit with something more than a gentle tap. Of those, “Running Man’s Bible” is the toughest, and the closest to the Tom Petty who could command a rowdy stadium: “I took on my father and I’m still walkin’/Took on all comers in some shape or form.”
Later he continues:
I don’t speak of the times I’ve nearly died
I don’t speak of outlastin’ those who are gone
Or the things I’ve done I care not to remember
Or the desperate measures that might have been wrong.