Review Summary: The same old Tom Petty in 2014, which is not a complaint
Tom Petty is an interesting figure within the musical world. Many would argue that each of his albums, both with the Heartbreakers or during his solo career, contains a significant amount of filler. Nonetheless, in terms of the sheer number of classic songs Petty has written during his career, few if any musicians can surpass him. However, the last few decades of Petty’s career have generally seen his albums decline with regards to critical and popular reception. Where does all this leave the newly-released Hypnotic Eye?
Overall, the album represents a return to form for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Those who have simply heard the first single released from the album, “American Dream Plan B”, may well have been somewhat deceived by Hypnotic Eye’s sound. That song’s surprising heaviness, at least by Petty’s standards, is not replicated in other parts of the album. As a whole, Hypnotic Eye follows closely the time-tested formula that Petty has perfected, that of melodic rock with a distinctive heartland vibe. “Red River” stands out in this regard, as do ballads such as “Full Grown Boy”. While not all the songs are as memorable, they consistently manage to live up to previous Petty efforts, in producing catchy but meaningful and well-constructed tunes. There is a notable political theme, either open or implied, running through some of the songs as well, particularly “American Dream Plan B”, “Power Drunk”, and album closer “Shadow People”, and such concerns are addressed in an effective and interesting manner.
All in all, Hypnotic Eye really does not break substantial new ground for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Most of the songs are similar in spirit to those on Petty’s more laid-back previous efforts, such as Full Moon Fever and Into The Great Wide Open. This lack of progression is far from a bad thing, however. Petty’s songwriting ability has not declined significantly, as evidenced by the high quality of most of the songs here. While there might be no song on Hypnotic Eye quite as timeless as “Free Fallin’” or “American Girl”, for fans of the Heartbreakers’ brand of rock, this album is well worth listening to, preferably while driving or relaxing outside on a warm sunny day.