Album Review: Mojo by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Fairly Good, Based on 9 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Tom Petty has finally sold his soul to the devil and given up his fight against the corporatization of the modern concert industry and his hope of keeping ticket prices fair for his fans. Petty has come to terms with the Ticketmaster/Live Nation behemoth and formed a merchandising agreement. The good news is then, that the purchase of a ticket to any performance on this summer’s tour (with ticket prices reaching as high as $132, before service fees) will include a digital download of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ new CD, Mojo.
Iconic rocker is just himself, and that’s enough Tom Petty, who turns 60 this year, has reached a glorious yet potentially complicated stage in his career. He’s got the box sets. He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s recorded countless pop smashes. His band, the Heartbreakers, stands ….
Tuneful and gently flowing, Mojo is endowed with the qualities diehards expect from Tom ”Watch Me Rock Out Without Breaking a Sweat” Petty. What it lacks is instant classics (didn’t he used to be good for a few per album?). Even so, a handful of these new songs come within spitting distance of past glories. As Petty sings on the last track, ”That’s good enough for me.” B Download These:Hip-shaker Let Yourself Go at amazon.comOptimistic Something Good Coming at amazon.com See all of this week’s reviews .
Tom Petty has been fronting the Heartbreakers off and on (mostly on) for over 30 years now, and he and his band have been delivering a high level of no-frills, classy, and reconstituted American garage rock through all of it. Petty often gets lumped in with artists like Bruce Springsteen, whose careful and worked-over lyrics carry a kind of instant nostalgia, but Petty's songwriting at its best cleverly bounces off of romance clichés, often with a desperate, lustful drawl and sneer, and he’s usually been more concerned with the here and now than he is about musing about what’s been abused and lost in contemporary America, although he's certainly not blind to it. Petty has always been more immediate than that -- until now, that is.
Tom Petty hasn’t recorded an album with the Heartbreakers since 2002’s The Last DJ, and that offering, a musically flat and thematically overheated protest against the commercial excesses of the music industry, probably hasn’t done much to tide fans over in the interim (meanwhile, Petty’s populist scruples haven’t stopped him from asking upward of $150 for his latest concerts). All the more puzzling, then, that Petty and company don’t even attempt a return to form on Mojo. Instead, they opt for bluesy jamming over their familiar Byrds-style jangle, with all of the appropriate signifiers of rootsy Americana in place: there’s a chugging ode to the highway, “U.S.
Besides Tom Petty's scruffy, ghoulish appearance, two things struck me about his band's SNL performance: the swaggering bluesy cool of guitarist Mike Campbell's lead riff on first single I Should Have Known It and the overpowering volume of his guitar. [rssbreak] It was an apt introduction to the beloved heartland rock band's 11th album. Petty has said that he tried to write songs that allowed Campbell (usually a tasteful player) to play a lot this time around, and that's what's happened.
In his 50s, Tom Petty seems to be living the Grumpy Old Man phase of his career. His last album with the Heartbreakers, 2002's The Last DJ, bitterly attacked the state of the music business. This record – with the songs recorded live in the studio, and the equipment used by the band all listed (no guitar made after 1965 here, folks) – would appear to be the "Listen, youngsters, this is how we used to do it" one.
He may be approaching 60, but Tom Petty appears to be at his most adventurous. Mojo is a natural follow-up to his work with Mudcrutch, Petty's original band that reformed to record its debut in 2008. It's a Southern rock delight that eschews obvious hooks and crowd-pleasing anthems for chunky blues riffs and swampy jams, and all sorts of nonmodern rock touchstones emerge, from the Grateful Dead to the Allman Brothers to Led Zeppelin (or is it the Yardbirds?), even a touch of reggae.
Petty’s latest with the Heartbreakers is a far cry from his finest fare. David Quantick 2010 Tom Petty – solo artist, Heartbreaker and Travelling Wilbury – has been making records since the late 1970s, and in that time he’s encompassed many musical styles. Well, three or four: new wave, rock, psychedelia and Americana, that mixture of Dylan, blues, country, soul and so forth that everyone from Springsteen to Bon Jovi has tried in various forms.