Review Summary: Man I wish I could go back in time. I'd take state.
Nobody gets to go back. Just ask Uncle Rico. Time moves on and doesn’t wait around. Wish you had your own chance for a do over? Get lost. Forget all that flat circle nonsense you read about in a depressing college lit class. Need Proof? Stephen Hawking famously threw a party for time travelers and advertised it the following day. Surprisingly no one came. However considering this is a man who still hasn’t figured out that lemon dressing on cucumber and tomato salad doesn’t mix, maybe the time travelers just didn’t want to be subjected to such harrowing party fouls.
However if your name is Tom Petty you just might be able to pull it off. Tom’s first band Mudcrutch disbanded after eight years and no albums back in ‘75. Absconding with half of that band while adding some new members Petty created the Heartbreakers and classic rock radio was forever changed. So why in 2007 did Petty reunite with the lost band mates of his youth and then in the following year release the group’s long awaited debut album? Because when you get a chance to see the path that could have been, your opposing self in another dimension, it doesn’t hurt to take a peak.
For this record they forge new material as well as update some of their original songs. The members worked to construct a similar dynamic as the original iteration. That means Petty is back on bass while occasionally sharing lead singing duties and the liner notes suggest creating this record was a cohesive process. At its best the music here is fluid southern roots rock played with conviction. The kind you wish you were driving on a dirt road on a sunny day to really appreciate. At its worst these songs can be forgettable shadows of fully fleshed out ideas. Luckily those tracks are few and far between.
Even though this band is half Heartbreakers the music succeeds at devising its own universe to exist in. In fact Petty’s voice is the only common link the two bands showcase. Mudcrutch would be better off playing in a bar Road House style. The instruments never rest in one place and often take turns being the focal point i.e. Crystal River. The winning songs here thrive off of of riding the correct musical waves. The intertwined duel guitars nudged along by understated keyboard counter moves occasionally create the forbidden dance of beauty. Petty’s dependable vocals here rarely falter but don’t sink or uplift a song like the instruments do.
Naturally on the spectrum of good and bad most of these songs lie on midway point with a few extremes on either side. So with hindsight being 20/20 given the chance to go back in time its unlikely the Heartbreakers would have changed much. They have been one of the more successful bands in American history. On the other hand Mudcrutch is rumored to be working on album number two. Meaning who can be sure if Petty and co. really feel the same way.